Written by: Shane Shoemaker (@SShoemaker24)
The University of Tennessee has had one of its worst seasons in recent memory, losing a total of eight games and not winning a single conference game in the 2017 season. But if you thought they were going to let the college football world forget about them, well, you were terribly mistaken. However, I’m not too sure by the end of this whole coaching search ordeal that they will want to be remembered for all of this.
When news began to leak in what I assume was a “controlled leak” that Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was set to take the head coaching job at Tennessee, the revolt soon began by Vol nation.
Never in the history of college football or perhaps any other sport did such a backlash take place where fan influence so quickly seemingly changed the entire direction of a program. Within hours of the leak that Schiano was set to be the next coach for the Volunteers, it was then reported that higher-ups in Knoxville were changing their mind because of the overwhelming response from fans and even officials in the state.
I’ve said for a while that I’m not even sure people understand how incredible the impact of social media really is. Only something like this Schiano hiring-not hiring continues that thought, as only a situation like this could take place in the social media era because of how quickly the decision was changed by such a collective voice in so little time.
If you break this down, this defines the era we’re in right now as a whole, but not just in college football, though, our entire country. While I certainly can’t blame fans of Tennessee football for voicing their displeasures at the choice of what would have probably been another disastrous hire for their head football coach, it was nothing short of another protest, which is now the new norm in the country when someone doesn’t get their way.
Fans close to campus went as far as going to a famous spot on the university called “The Rock” and wrote things like, “Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State.”
I say again — I understand the frustration, but to go as low as to point to something like accusing someone of covering up child rape who wasn’t even convicted … that’s pretty low. That’s not to say that I believe he is or isn’t guilty of that — I have no idea — only he (and maybe others) know that. Like I said on Twitter, this was the stick of dynamite that Tennessee fans needed to blow this whole thing up because he wasn’t who they wanted — because he’s not a good coach is the real reason — and he’s not Jon Gruden.
Do you really believe that if Jon Gruden had any similar allegations this would have ever been brought to attention? Absolutely not. No one talked about Schiano or these allegations when Urban Meyer hired him as his defensive coordinator at Ohio State, at least not to my knowledge. This blew up and was used as ammunition because of those who were looking for dirt on him or at least against the university — which is a commonly over-used tactic on social media when people don’t like someone or some situation — to stop this hire from ever happening.
They were trying to send a message to the university and ended up sending a message that possibly destroyed a mans reputation. This will send a bad message to not only the rest of college football but the rest of sports and other facets as well. You thought fans were brutal before, just wait … it will be even more brutal now.
It was inexcusable by AD John Currie to even consider this hire. He’ll probably be fired and-or used as a scapegoat to the Haslam’s poor influence and decision making. But what does that say about the rest of the university athletic program? You’re going to let fans determine your, albeit a dumb one no doubt, decision making? Who’s in charge? It obviously shouldn’t be him. So who would want this job right now, especially if you know that Currie won’t be there much longer. Who can you trust to make a reliable decision? Tennessee has no stability right now.
Don’t get me wrong, IF you can find the right guy for the job, then you have the chance to be in talks as one of the greatest coaches for the Vols ever, heck, even the greatest person to ever don a power T if you can bring them out of this mess. But if you don’t? I shutter to think what they would do to the next coach, especially given that they are in the most delusional conference ever that just expects to win.
Here’s another thing that hurts Tennessee right now – they’re in a time where there’s very few big coaching names available. Coaching in college football is at a major transitional phase right now.
Chip Kelly was available, but everyone thought he was always going to be a west coast guy, and proved so by going to UCLA. Dan Mullen was a hot name for Tennessee, but his previous coaching stint as offensive coordinator with Florida changed that thought when Gainesville came open. Scott Frost is still available (for now), but all signs are pointing to him going back to his alma mater in Nebraska. There’s a few others out there, like Kevin Sumlin, who was recently fired by Texas A&M also.
Tennessee finds themselves in such a precarious situation as to where they can’t afford another gamble, they need almost a sure thing. (A sure thing at this point would be at least competing for the SEC East.) And again, that doesn’t really exist.
In their last two coaching searches the university has been all in on “Grumors” – the thought being that Jon Gruden would actually leave his multi-million dollar announcing gig at ESPN on Monday Night Football to come coach college football. It got to such a fever pitch that it gave the fans such unrealistic expectations that it then became that no other name would have truly been satisfying enough to the fan base. It was Gruden or bust.
Now, the thought is, “Anybody … please?”
Most college football programs who have had success tend to have a mentality that is similar, however. Everyone is looking for that Nick Saban lurking in the shadows to come save their football program. But that simply doesn’t exist. Tennessee fans began thinking Gruden was their Saban because he had previous success. But not just success, NFL success, including a Super Bowl title on his resume. And then you have to add on the preposed $10 million or so contract they were supposedly offering Gruden. Whether that dollar amount was real or not, it was out there for the rest of the world to see. And don’t think other coaches weren’t asking, “Well, if you’re going to offer Gruden that much, how much are you going to offer me?” You especially have to take that into account if you’re interviewing someone who is still involved in coaching while the other guy hasn’t coached in 10 years or so. Tennessee may be attempting to open up their wallets now, but its definitely out of desperation.
Tennessee set themselves up for this, though, the university that is. With all their bargain shopping over the past couple coaching searches, they have left their passionate fan base up in arms now that questions every little decision the university makes from here on out. I can’t blame them for that. The only question is where does passion exceed judgment?