Much of the backlash is based on a story that links Schiano to former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Nittany Lions assistant Mike McQueary claimed that Schiano, a defensive backs coach at the time, said he’d seen Sandusky “doing something” with a boy in a shower.
The allegation was never proven, and Schiano wasn’t charged in the case. He also testified that he never knew about what Sandusky was doing with little boys. Nevertheless, the mere implication that Schiano might have known something was enough to ignite the Tennessee fan base.
The weekend was rife with Volunteer fans protesting around Neyland Stadium and engaging in anti-Schiano chants. The Knox News reports that people painted a derogatory message on a giant rock on campus.
“I feel if Schiano gets hired it will be the worst thing to happen to this university since I’ve been a fan, and I’ve been in Knoxville since 1997,” said Sean Powell, who was at the rally. Powell also said that the Sandusky ties are the biggest reason why he protested Schiano.
“Perception is nine-tenths reality,” said named man in attendance named Lee Chapman. “It doesn’t matter what the truth is, it’s what people think is the truth. And when you have something hanging over someone’s head like this, it’s always going to be brought up.
“He would be the highest-paid official in the state of Tennessee. Is that who we want representing our state, our community and our university? My answer to that would be no.”
Tennessee’s Protests Against Schiano are Unprecedented
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like this,” said an unnamed athletic director. “Within the industry, there was an understanding that he’d been cleared. But now with the way the fan base has responded, who will be willing to take that job?”
Who will Coach Tennessee Now?
It’s obvious that Schiano won’t be serving as the Tennessee coach. This now leaves the question of who the university will hire in the aftermath of this not working out.
Athletic director John Currie is in a bind as the first-year athletic director. After all, he’s already been bashed by many fans and boosters for failing to fire Butch Jones faster.
If he had gone ahead and hired Schiano amid the backlash, it’s likely that his relationship would’ve become even rockier with fans. But now he faces another challenge in trying to find a qualified candidate to take the job.
Tennessee doesn’t have the same luster as it once did 5-10 years ago. The team hasn’t been on the national radar for years, and the Schiano protests show how merciless the Volunteer fans can be. That said, it’d be interesting to see what kind of hire they can bring in now.
The school is coming off a 4-8 season, where they failed to compete in many games. The next coach will be walking into a rebuilding situation, rather than taking over what’s traditionally been a winning program.
What does Schiano’s Future Hold?
Six years ago, Greg Schiano was one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country. He turned around a Rutgers program that had been traditionally terrible before he came onto the scene in 2001.
This landed him a lucrative job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012. But that didn’t go over well as Schiano was just 11-21 in two seasons as the coach.
He eventually rebounded when Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer hired him as the defensive coordinator. It makes sense why the Volunteers would want to hire him based on his previous successes with Rutgers.
But one has to wonder if he can ever rise above a coordinator job in the future. He’s done a very good job with the Buckeyes, helping the team feature the No. 8 total defense in the nation this year, and the No. 3 total defense last season.
It’s not unfathomable to think that somebody else will take a chance on Schiano in the future. But it certainly can’t be a conservative SEC school like Tennessee.