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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
One day after staying home in droves last Saturday, leaving Neyland Stadium sparsely populated for the final game of the worst season in University of Tennessee football history, UT fans used their pent up energy to derail Athletic Director John Currie's handpicked hire to lead Vol Nation out of the wilderness.
Currie eschewed an outside search firm, essentially repeating the famous last words of many an Appalachian-American: "Hold my beer. Watch this." But Vol fans did not merely watch after news leaked that Currie nearly had a deal done with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to become the next head coach on Rocky Top. Fans erupted.
Vol fans blitzed Currie, UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport, UT President Joe DiPietro and even Gov. Bill Haslam with a ferocious fury. They took to Twitter and Facebook, painted the rock at UT and marched on athletic offices, rejecting Schiano and castigating Currie.
Why, pray tell, did this hire go so wrong so fast? Why were Vol fans so vicious?
Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Charlie Rose. John Conyers. Roy Moore. Then, this week, Garrison Keillor. And Matt Lauer. There are others, but these high-profile sexual abusers have been exposed. Finally. Seemingly every day brings new accusations. And Schiano, fairly or not, is linked to the worst known sexual abuser in NCAA football history - Jerry Sandusky.
Schiano was named in court proceedings last year when a former Penn State football coach said Schiano knew about Sandusky sexually assaulting young boys when Schiano worked at Penn State in the 1990s. Schiano said he knew nothing of the abuse.
Perhaps he did not. Perhaps he did. But as the news broke of the possible hire on Sunday, your curious columnist simply googled Schiano and found what every parent of every recruit would have found: a story about Schiano and Sandusky. Vol fans apparently found the story, too, and savaged Schiano.
Currie said Schiano was vetted. But we live in what may be a watershed moment in American history, in a time when America is getting real about powerful men and sexual abuse. Plus UT last year settled a sexual assault case involving football players. Plus former players are in legal process for alleged rape.
Is it really any wonder Vol Nation raged? Some commentators said Vol fans really rushed to judgment because of Schiano's football record. For the record, his record as a head coach: 68-67 at Rutgers with a 28-48 conference record in the Big East and 11-21 at Tampa Bay in the NFL. Those who ripped Vol fans are insulated idiots, so focused on football they are oblivious to the zeitgeist.
Which brings the big question: How could the UT administration be so oblivious to our times they failed to anticipate the outcry? In NCAA enforcement parlance "lack of institutional control" strikes fear of an athletic "death penalty." At UT, lack of institutional competence could cause athletic suicide.
Greg Johnson's column appears on Fridays. Follow him on Twitter @jgregjohnson. Visit his Greg Johnson Opinions Page on Facebook. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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