Chris Low is reporting that the deal between Tennessee and Greg Schiano is now officially not going to happen:
The Greg Schiano to Tennessee deal is dead. Following a public outcry among fans and state politicians, Tennessee backed out of a memorandum of understanding with Schiano that had been signed earlier in the day by both parties.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) November 27, 2017
Earlier, Jimmy Hyams reported that there was indeed a press conference scheduled for 9:00 p.m. this evening to announce Tennessee’s hiring of Greg Schiano, but that it had been canceled due to the unprecedented fan backlash this afternoon:
I am told Tennessee was going to have a press conference tonight to announce the hiring of Schiano but canceled it due to protests. Unsure if it will be rescheduled tomorrow or if the deal has fallen through. One prominent booster wasn’t happy with Schiano hire.
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 26, 2017
At the time of the tweet, it was unclear whether the press conference was merely re-scheduled or canceled for good. Some reports say that it was Schiano who is balking due to the backlash and that the school still had the offer on the table.
It was early this afternoon that USA Today’s Dan Wolken first reported that Tennessee was finalizing a deal with Schiano. Schiano, who’s currently the defensive coordinator for Ohio State, was an assistant at Penn State while Jerry Sandusky was there, and, according to sworn testimony from former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary, was aware of Sandusky’s improper behavior with young boys. Based on that report from last July, fans on social media immediately voiced their displeasure and began ringing the bell to get the attention of others.
Fans painted The Rock in protest and then gathered on campus for an actual protest. At least one 4-star recruit de-committed. Tennessee state representatives then began to object to the hire on social media as well, and some reached out directly to the athletic department. Even the White House Press Secretary ended up weighing in:
As the fervor grew, word came that Schiano was having second thoughts due to the backlash:
Greg Schiano is currently concerned with the climate of the Tennessee fan base and the reaction towards reports of his contract being finalized at Tennessee. The deal may not get finalized.
— Dan Harralson (@danharralson) November 26, 2017
And now word comes from Low and others that the deal is in fact dead.
It is good to hear that it was Tennessee’s decision to back out of the Memorandum of Understanding. For too long today, it seemed that they were clearly not concerned about what fans think. No athletic department should abdicate any measure of authority to fans, but ignoring the customer is idiotic. There is no football program without fans. Sure, there will always be some, and many others will eventually forgive and forget, but intentionally plowing forward knowing that you’re alienating a huge percentage of your paying customer base is just dumb. And if he had been hired, he would have started with even less patience and even more scrutiny than most new head coaches.
So, where does Tennessee go from here? If it’s true that Tennessee did significant damage today to its ability to lure a coach to Knoxville, then that’s not the fault of the fan base, not today. This was a huge misstep by John Currie, and he never should have put the fan base in the position of having to rally to resist the hire. This one’s on him, not the fans, and not anticipating the fan reaction was a huge blind spot that will be a concern going forward.
If he wasn’t before, Currie better be listening now. He has to get this one right, and today, he was only hours away from doing the exact opposite of that.