Has there ever been a day quite like November 26, 2017?
Let’s briefly lay out the context.
Tennessee fired Butch Jones a couple of Sundays ago. The first week of the post-Butch era was filled with an endless amount of Grumors — so much so that fans were convinced Jon Gruden would leave the Monday Night Football booth and become the head man in Knoxville. There were airport stakeouts, reports of a coup between the boosters, and even a local restaurant joining in on the fun.
Then, the following week, the Grumors faded.
Tennessee fans wanted Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen — Florida eventually got him. They got him because UCLA snagged Chip Kelly and UCF’s Scott Frost wasn’t interested. Both were coaches Vol Nation were attracted to.
A couple of nights ago, even Washington’s Chris Petersen was mentioned, leaving every Tennessee fan asking, what exactly is John Currie doing?
Apparently, on Sunday morning, Currie flew into Columbus, Ohio, hellbent on signing Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as the program’s next head coach.
Immediately, Vol Nation pounced on the idea of Schiano being the next head coach. Was it because of his mediocre record at Rutgers and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Partially. Was it because his personality was essentially a carbon copy of Butch Jones’? Sure.
But what really set fans over the edge was Schiano’s alleged involvement in the Penn State child molestation scandal. Although no concrete evidence has ever suggested that Schiano was involved in the cover up, the fact that his name is linked to such an atrocious scandal triggered arguably the biggest backlash against a potential coaching hire in college football history.
— Kelton Johnson (@KCJ55) November 26, 2017
— Andy Patterson (@fwbpastor) November 26, 2017
Tennessee #Vols on every level – parents of current players, former players, current coaches, former coaches – and coaches from other programs – universally against Schiano. Never seen anything like it.
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) November 26, 2017
The Vols capped off their worst season in program history after Saturday’s 42-24 loss to Vanderbilt. For the first time in program history, Tennessee lost eight games and went winless in conference play.
However, the fans that proudly wear Orange and White every Saturday, regardless of the team or weather’s quality, rallied together and gave Tennessee its biggest win of the 2017 season — Greg Schiano will NOT be the successor to Butch Jones, according to reports.
— Volquest Staff (@Volquest_Rivals) November 27, 2017
That’s right. Protests on campus and a social media assault resulted in Schian’s deal falling through. It got so ugly, that state representatives even voiced their displeasure.
— Rep. Jason Zachary (@JasonZacharyTN) November 26, 2017
Our Tennessee standards mean something, and a Greg Schiano hire would be anathema to all that our University and our community stand for. I sincerely hope that these rumors are not true, because even serious consideration would be unacceptable.
— Eddie Smith (@RepEddieSmith) November 26, 2017
Has anything like this ever happened?
Not to my knowledge. While hires receive backlash from fans all the time, there’s never been a movement organized in such a swift and efficient manner that resulted in a potential head-coaching deal collapsing so quickly. Tennessee fans were so persistent in their anti-Schiano rhetoric that it left Currie (and frankly, Schiano) with no choice but to walk away from the table.
It also proved just how serious and powerful Tennessee’s fan base is. After several years of mediocrity, it’s evident that this coaching search is a make-or-break search for a large portion of fans. They not only demand a respectable hire, but they also want a head coach who will represent the University of Tennessee the way it deserves to be represented.
We can debate the details of Schiano’s alleged involvement in the Penn State scandal until the cows come home. On a much, much less serious note, we can debate how successful Schiano was at Rutgers.
But what’s not debatable is this: By losing out on Schiano, Tennessee won. The fans won, and in turn, the athletic department won, because now they know what standard they are being held to.