This should go without saying, but hiring a head coach isn’t easy.
So when a quality coach falls into your lap and is interested, you get their signature on the dotted line.
Former Tennessee athletic director John Currie accomplished this goal. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was interested in Tennessee’s coaching vacancy. Currie was interested in him. Probably for reasons outside of football — cough cough Jimmy Haslam cough cough — but there’s a lot to like about Schiano as a head coaching prospect.
Tennessee football in 2017 was a historic disaster for the prestigious program. Schiano specializes in fixing disasters — he took a Rutgers program that went to precisely zero bowl game appearances from 1979 until his arrival in 2001 and took the Scarlet Knights bowling six times during his final seven seasons in Camden.
Say what you want about Schiano’s personality, and if you’re uncomfortable with his extremely loose ties to the Penn State scandal, that’s understandable. But labeling him as an awful hire from a coaching perspective is simply inaccurate.
Regardless, Vol Nation — as well as the Knoxville media — was satisfied when Currie and Schiano called their deal off, even if the repercussions of such an unprecedented reaction to social media outrage resulted in crippling consequences.
Instead, Currie was forced into an impromptu second act of his coaching search, which resulted in him visiting and offering multiple coaches in a short time span. This process eventually led to Washington State’s Mike Leach, who reportedly said yes, but was then turned down by Tennessee’s administration.
Currie was then promptly fired.
Now, newly anointed athletic director/Vol coaching legend Phillip Fulmer leads the charge. If you want to know how that’s going, here’s a brief synopsis — Fulmer loves Tennessee, tweeted out a video that utilized an awful cover of The Beatles’ classic “Come Together,” and could potentially hire Kevin Steele as the Vols’ next head coach.
In case you were wondering, Steele’s career record as the man in charge is a healthy 9-36.
It’s hard to hire coaches. It’s especially hard when every circumstance was working against Tennessee from the beginning.
Had Chip Kelly or Scott Frost accepted the Florida job — a better job than Tennessee’s — then Dan Mullen is in Knoxville today recruiting and developing quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
But that’s not what transpired. Kelly opted to go with fit (UCLA), while Frost went home (Nebraska). As a former Florida offensive coordinator, it was a no-brainer that the Mullen-Gator marriage was about to take shape.
Ultimately, this was the scenario which forced Currie’s hand. Given Schiano’s track record as a program builder and recruiter, it was as safe a hire as Currie could’ve possibly made.
Yet, that wasn’t good enough to please anybody in Knoxville. They wanted fireworks — Jon Gruden, Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach. Big names and even bigger personalities. At this point, Vol Nation should just want someone, anyone, to take the job.
Knoxville is gathered around the campfire and singing Kumbaya to the return of Phillip Fulmer. However, what’s been lost here is that while other programs are finding coaching replacements in a matter of days, Tennessee’s administration allowed itself to be overran by an online mob, which hurts the program’s brand and makes a deteriorating job even more unattractive.
Rocky Top’s desire for the return of the 1990s is stronger than ever, but in order to retain past glory, you have to get the ball rolling from a leadership standpoint. Tennessee has yet to do that, and until Team 122 can latch onto a coach’s vision, the future for Tennessee football is bleak.