Part 8: The oral history of the Tennessee coaching search

Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer with Jeremy Pruitt
Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Part VIII: Tennessee looks ahead

In the weeks that followed, the circus continued. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy turned down the Vols. It didn’t work out with Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. North Carolina State’s Dave Doreen stayed in Raleigh after getting a nice raise. The absurdity grew when Currie went rogue, flying to L.A. to interview Mike Leach, but then was fired by chancellor Beverly Davenport upon his return to Knoxville.

Phillip Fulmer was installed as the new AD, and on Thursday, December 7, Tennessee officially named Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the Vols’ new coach.

The early signing period begins December 20, and people in Knoxville are finally talking about actual football again.

RELATED: Other stories in our series

Whether other fan bases across the nation follow the lead of Tennessee’s in the future when they are upset about a hiring remains to be seen. But one thing is clear. Tennessee is a different place today than it was the morning of November 26, 2017 – ‘Schiano Sunday.’

Fernandez: When I think back to that Sunday, the Rock is the first thing that pops into my head. The intensity of the words makes it impossible to forget. I was standing there, talking to Underwood, staring at these words, while a group of fans and students started marching down Volunteer Boulevard, chanting their frustration. It was so bizarre. Never in a million years would I have guessed something like this would happen.

Hart: Someone used the word ‘toxic’ to describe the Tennessee program during this time. No. Disorganized? Maybe. Unscrupulous? Perhaps to some people. Covert? Sure. Penn State under Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky was toxic. This doesn’t compare.

Smith: Without the internet, Greg Schiano is Tennessee’s head coach right now. Fifteen years ago, nobody listened to radio online and there was no social media. The instant reaction of the fan base reached politicians, boosters and UT administrators immediately. It was impossible to ignore.

Russo: This is something that never would have happened years ago, but it shows how far we’ve come with social media and the power that it possesses. … Other fan bases have now seen the influence that is possible when the masses come together on social media.

McGee: I think the game has now changed for everyone involved in the process of hiring big-time college coaches, from ADs and agents to search firms and boosters. Their committee now has a new member at the table – the social media-powered public. That will ultimately be what tells the truth about what happened with Tennessee fans and Schiano. If this story uniquely stands the test of time, then so be it. But if fan bases start grabbing up digital pitchforks every time a coach they don’t care for is interviewed for a job at their school, that’s a routine and a road I have zero interest in traveling down again.

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