Coaching Search Drama Continues on Rocky Top

Holden Carter, Writer

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The Tennessee Volunteers football team finished its worst season in the program’s history last weekend. The Vols finished with an overall record of 4-8, losing eight games for the first time in the school’s history. Butch Jones was fired earlier in the season after five years as the team’s head coach. Interim coach Brady Hoke took over after Jones’s dismissal but was still blown out by LSU. Then trying to avoid going winless in the SEC, UT played its in-state rival Vanderbilt in the final game. The Commodores were also winless in the SEC when they faced the Volunteers Saturday. Vandy’s running back, Ralph Webb, rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns, leading them to a dominant 42-24 victory in Knoxville. This loss that made the Vols winless in the SEC for the season would be arguably the least disappointing and surprising thing to happen on Rocky Top this weekend.

On Sunday, news was leaked and later announced by several news outlets, including ESPN, that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was going to be the next head football coach at Tennessee. This was met with almost immediate backlash, as Vols fans flocked to social media to voice their displeasure for the new hire. Many cited Schiano’s alleged cover up of child sexual abuse at Penn State when he was employed there. Even state representatives got involved to voice their disgruntlement against the Vols’ potential coach. State Representative Jeremy Faison tweeted, “The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee.They’re the face of our state. We don’t need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life as the highest-paid state employee. It’s egregious to the people and it’s wrong to the taxpayers.”

It appears the allegations were nothing more than a hearsay statement with virtually no evidence of Schiano knowing anything of the sexual abuse that took place. In a 2015 deposition, former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary testified that another Penn State assistant coach, Tom Bradley, had told him that Schiano had talked to him about having knowledge of the abuse. Schiano and Bradley both denied these claims.

Personally, I think Tennessee fans were upset that they couldn’t get a more nationally known coach such as Jon Gruden or Dan Mullen, so they used Schiano’s allegations as a scapegoat against his hiring. Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie then stated that Schiano would not be the next coach due to the backlash he received. Currie has faced scrutiny for a duration of the six months he has spent as Tennessee’s AD, much due to the fact he waited too long to relieve Butch Jones as head coach. Now many are calling for Currie to be outed as athletic director for his inability to properly research coaching candidates. He has also been criticized for not standing by his decision to name Schiano as head coach, giving in to Tennessee fan who were displeased with his decision.

These recent events could make the coaching search even more difficult, as those looking for a head coaching position might be afraid to take a job at Tennessee because of the somewhat unrealistic expectations on coaches. If they aren’t able to find a quality coach soon it could lead to a domino effect that further pushes back the progress of the football program.

Former UT quarterback and current University of Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin is being viewed as a possible choice because of his ties to the university’s football program. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has also been contacted as possible head coach of the Volunteers. Gundy decided not to forgo the $8 million contract at Tennessee to remain at his alma mater.

Tennessee fans and boosters may just have to face the fact that their program isn’t as sought after as it once was. I could be wrong, and maybe someone could revive the Vols football program and bring them to what they once were. But the questions still remain: Who could do it, and how long will it take?

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