How was your Thanksgiving weekend? Because college football’s weekend was insane. #2 Miami losing to 4-7 Pitt on Friday. #1 Alabama losing to #6 Auburn on Saturday. And a ton of coaches losing their jobs all weekend. Bret Bielema, Mike Riley, Kevin Sumlin, and Todd Graham, out, to name just a few. Chip Kelly to UCLA. Dan Mullen to Florida. Jimbo may be going to A&M. And Greg Schiano going to Tennessee. Actually, maybe not. Actually, definitely not.
Yesterday afternoon, Tennessee and Schiano backed out of a memorandum of understanding they had with Schiano a few hours earlier. Uhhh, what the hell was that?
The Mike Price Era at Alabama thinks that was a short run. New York Jets head coach Bill Belichick thought that was over quickly. Notre Dame legend George O’Leary can’t believe this.
Although technically Schiano was never officially introduced as the head coach, so he can’t really join that elite club. Instead, he’s got one all of his own, because when word started to come out that he was going to be the next head coach of the Volunteers, a segment of Volunteer fans went ballistic online and on The Rock on Tennessee’s campus.
Listen, the truth is, anytime you hire a head coach, there are probably going to be fans who don’t like the move. And any guy who was hired at Tennessee whose name doesn’t rhyme with Ron Ruden was going to be a disappointment to a lot of fans. But there’s disappointed and then there’s the reaction to Schiano, which went viral in a hurry.
And that backlash focused on the belief that Schiano, a former assistant at Penn State, knew of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children. If that is the case, if he did know about it and did nothing, that is beyond reprehensible and I completely understand why Vol fans would be angry. But there’s a problem with that. We don’t know that he knew. Only Schiano himself knows. As Dan Wetzel, who covered the case as closely as anyone, points out, Schiano’s name came up as a “non-specific allegation based on a second-hand account recalled at least a decade after the fact.” Charges were never filed against Schiano, he was never sued by anyone, and he has adamantly denied knowing anything.
But the notion of Schiano as part of a Sandusky cover-up spread like wildfire online, even getting politicians involved, and culminating with “Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State” being spray-painted on the giant rock on campus.
There may be plenty of reasons not to want Greg Schiano as your head coach, starting with the stories that came out of his time as the head coach of the Buccaneers. But if your opposition to him is that he covered up child rape at Penn State, you better have proof. When you start making statements like that, you better have more than a non-specific allegation based on a secondhand account recalled a least a decade after the fact.
But really, this is on the school. Hard to know which look is worse – hiring Schiano or bailing on him when social media erupted. The school had to know about the Penn State connection, so how did they mismanage this so poorly? And how did the school not know its own fanbase?
I’m not saying Schiano is a great coach. Or that he was the perfect hire or a good fit for Tennessee. Or that Vol fans should’ve been happy about him as a head coach. Or that Tennessee made the right move in the first place, but they should’ve known this was possible when they went down the road with him.
I’m not arguing that he was the right man for the job in Knoxville. I completely understand if a school wouldn’t steer clear of Schiano because of even the faintest connection to the Penn State investigation. But if you do decide to hire him, losing control of the story and bailing on him a few hours later looks even worse. Then again, if I was Schiano and I saw that reaction, I wouldn’t have wanted the gig either. And that’s Tennessee’s problem now.
Good luck trying to get someone else to walk into this dumpster fire on wheels. Might as well just re-hire Butch Jones, at least he knows how to handle a press conference.
There are plenty of reasons not to hire Greg Schiano. But if you’re going to do it, do it the right way.