The sudden hiring/unhiring of former Buccaneers coach (and current Ohio State defensive coordinator) Greg Schiano by the University of Tennessee has sparked widespread handwringing and predictions of doom and gloom for modern society (apparently, those people haven’t been paying very close attention to modern society). Yes, the mob successfully shouted down an administration that underestimated the unpopularity of the move and, yes, Schiano and his representatives didn’t do enough to extinguish embers that became a convenient conflagration for those who simply didn’t think he’d be a sufficiently successful coach for a chronically unsuccessful program.
The only unfair aspect of the outcome (Schiano not getting the job isn’t one of them) is that his character has been undermined without proof that seems sufficient or conclusive. Again, Schiano and his representatives bear some of the blame for this. They’ve known about Mike McQueary’s testimony for months, and Schiano failed to shout loudly enough from the rooftops his innocence in order to allow Schiano to be hired as a head coach without lingering shreds and shards of incomplete evidence derailing his effort.
While it’s impossible at this point to show with full clarity that Schiano didn’t know anything about the proclivities of Jerry Sandusky during Schiano’s six seasons at Penn State, it’s fair to consider the opinions of respected coaches who know him.
Asked Monday if he’d vouch for Schiano’s character, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said this, without hesitation: “100 percent. Yes, 100 percent.”
“I have great respect and think he’s a great football coach,” Belichick added. “I’m not really involved in any other situation, but speaking about him as a coach and a person, [I have] the utmost respect and zero reservations. Zero.”
While it won’t get Schiano the Tennessee job or any other gig if the fans and booster are dead set against him, it’s fair to consider clear and unambiguous comments from a guy who rarely speaks so clearly and unmistakably — and from a guy who happens to be arguably the best coach of all time in any sport.
Bottom line? Tennessee fans and boosters didn’t want Schiano, and Schiano had just enough bones lurking in the closet to give those who didn’t want him a hammer for keeping him out. If Tennessee fans and boosters wanted Schiano, those who opposed him based on incomplete and unproven allegations would have worked just as hard to fight back against claims that fall far short of showing that Schiano did anything wrong.
The challenge for Schiano will be finding a school where the fans and boosters feel sufficiently good about getting him to take the latter approach. Clearly, the folks at Tennessee didn’t.