Part 3: The oral history of the Tennessee coaching search

Tennessee AD John Currie
Wade Payne/Knoxville News Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

Part III: Greg Schiano?

Tennessee AD John Currie told reporters he would not comment on the job search until he had his man, and was true to his word. For two weeks, Currie stayed silent. He followed the Tennessee men’s basketball team to the Bahamas for part of the “Battle 4 Atlantis” tournament, and was not in attendance for Tennessee’s season-ending loss to Vanderbilt. That defeat capped a 4-8 campaign, the first time in program history that the Vols lost eight games in a season.

Most of the public speculation surrounded guys such as Gruden, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and UCF’s Scott Frost.

Will Warren – Tennessee fan, class of 2015
Twitter really lapped up Currie’s initial, ‘We’re not using a search firm’ comment. To me, that was a pretty obvious way of stating, ‘I’ve got my guy.’

There was candidate outside of the hot list of names rumored to be a contender: Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano.

RELATED: Other stories in our series

Schiano made Rutgers relevant, going 68-67 in 11 seasons as head coach, including an 11-win season and a second-place finish in the Big East in 2006. His two years (2012-13) as Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach didn’t go well; they went 11-21, and he lost the locker room. Players compared life under Schiano like “being in Cuba” because of his authoritarian ways. Schiano was described by many as being “Butch Jones 2.0” because of his temper and thin skin when it came to criticism.

But it was Schiano’s time at Penn State that became the big story in Knoxville. He was an assistant coach at Penn State in the early 1990s and one deposition quoted an assistant saying another assistant said Schiano had said he had seen something that bothered him. He denied the allegation, telling ESPN in 2016, “I never saw any abuse nor had reason to suspect any abuse during my time at Penn State.”

Tennessee had paid $2.48 million to settle a Title IX lawsuit only 16 months before, in which the University was alleged to have a “hostile sexual environment.”

For all of these reasons, the idea of Schiano becoming the next Tennessee coach seemed improbable.

Josh Ward – co-host, “Sports 180” on 99.1 WNML in Knoxville
We mentioned Schiano off and on during the two weeks leading up to the “Schiano Sunday,” but it was often when we were running through the list of names and how deep it could go. We spent very little time talking about Schiano as a serious candidate. But, yes, we mentioned his name several times over that two-week span, starting with the Monday after Butch Jones was fired.

Tom Hart – play-by-play announcer, SEC Network
I was shocked to hear Schiano’s name. Suspend for a moment what you think about the Penn State situation. This is Tennessee. This is a legacy program. A pillar of the game. Their first choice is a coach who was an abject failure in the NFL and never won a conference title, even after the Big East was watered down? Surely there is someone more accomplished interested.

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