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Part 5: The oral history of the Tennessee coaching search

Tennessee fans revolt Greg Schiano
Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Part V: The Uprising

It really wasn’t long ago that a coaching hire wouldn’t be known about until you saw the guy at the podium, thanking his wife and pledging to restore said program to greatness. But in 2017, news can be known immediately. No one waits until 11:20 p.m. to find out who won the game.

Once the imminent hire of Schiano started trending on Twitter, the toothpaste was out of the tube and the reaction from Vols fans was not pleasant.

Rice: Within an hour, I had talked on the phone to three people that have given the university seven figures over the last five years. They were all ready to walk away from donations if Schiano was hired. Each of those people had already contacted the Tennessee Fund (a booster club) to pass that along.

Brice: Folks who flat out love UT pondered their futures, said you can’t sell, market or raise funds for this guy. Don’t want to. Look, no firing is fun to cover; and I’ve tried always to build meaningful relationships. There are so many great people who go above and beyond to give UT athletics, football and otherwise, a chance to be premier. Folks were devastated and angry; no other terms fit.

RELATED: Other stories in our series

Warren: It was pure anger. I’d stood by this university, crawling through The Shawshank Redemption river of crap they’d let run freely for a decade. The day before, I publicly stated on my Twitter account I’d divest myself entirely of Tennessee football if they were to hire Schiano. I knew that he was involved to some extent with the Penn State/Sandusky scandal, but it was more than that for me: Former players hated him. Half the dang team got staph infections. He dove at Peyton’s knees! How was a thinner-skinned Butch Jones supposed to be our ‘big, expensive, explosive’ hire? And stop running out the 5-1 in bowl games stat! That’s some Butch Jones stuff.

Loposser: I just spent hundreds at Alumni Hall. My dogs are named Smokee, Neyland and Knox. I wear UT gear in the heart of Buckeye country. I got engaged the night before Eric Berry played his final home game. I looked my wife and said as long as he is the coach we won’t spend a dime.

Abraham: The first thing I did was send a text to a national media friend that said, ‘It can’t be. They will lose this fanbase.’ What an accurate take, huh? And then as the news grew stronger I went straight into crisis PR mode. ‘Take action’ was all that I could think. ‘Stop this. We have to stop this,’ was the only thing running through my mind. Looking back at those couple of hours, I can honestly say that something in me was saying we could make them take it all back. I knew it was far-fetched, but I also know #VolTwitter, so I believed if we could harness that power, that something amazing could happen and we could force them to change course.

The fan revolt took place on three separate fronts, each with its own groundswell of support – social media, sports talk shows and boots on the ground.

Social media took the initial lead. At least one local business posted that Greg Schiano was not welcome.

Twitter and Facebook told the stories of fan frustration and despair.

Abraham: I am out here on the west coast. On this island. Alone. I’ve endured the unthinkable: Lane Kiffin leaving my beloved alma mater in the middle of the night and arriving at USC where I could not escape the chatter or the laughter from Trojan fans. Derek Dooley and his damn stool. And this year people asking me about a trash can. I mean, ‘Whatttt?’ And through all of this, I’ve continued carrying the #VFL torch. I never believed my heartfelt words would be a factor in his (Currie’s) or anyone’s decision, but I needed to purge those feelings on paper for me and my sanity. I needed to say it publicly – that if Schiano was hired, I was putting that Tennessee torch down. The letter was not only cathartic, but it was necessary. I felt it was my duty to do everything I could to stop the hire.

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