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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
John Currie anticipates the day he will rejoin a team working environment.
Currie reflected on the end of his tenure as Tennessee's athletic director and looked toward the future in an interview with AthleticDirectorU.com that published Monday. It marks Currie's first public comments since he was ousted as UT's AD on Dec. 1 amid a chaotic football coaching search.
Tennessee initially suspended Currie with pay and replaced him with Phillip Fulmer before Currie and the university reached a $2.5 million settlement last month, officially ending his employment.
After his exit from UT, Currie spent a week as executive-in-residence at Robert Morris, and he'll join the faculty of Columbia University's sports management graduate program for a special one-week intensive program in May.
"One of the things I've been reminded of is that I'm not a solitary person," Currie said during the interview, when asked what he's learned these past few months. "I like to be part of a team, and I look forward to the next opportunity to be back on someone's team."
Currie was Tennessee's AD for eight months. He fired football coach Butch Jones on Nov. 12 and headed up the search for Jones' replacement, eschewing a search firm.
Currie's tenure took a turn on Nov. 26, when UT neared a deal that would have made Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano the next Vols coach. The deal unraveled after news of the impending hire was leaked and was met by a wave of backlash from some fans, donors and politicians.
The blowback centered, in part, Schiano's history as an assistant at Penn State in the 1990s. He worked on staff with Jerry Sandusky, who in 2012 was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of boys.
A fellow Penn State staffer, Mike McQueary, once delivered hearsay testimony in which he claimed he was told by another staffer that Schiano knew about one of Sandusky's acts of abuse.
McQueary's claim was never confirmed, and Schiano has denied having any knowledge of Sandusky's crimes or witnessing any of Sandusky's abuse.
Currie's tenure survived the Schiano debacle, but he was ousted after UT administrators lost contact with him for several hours on Nov. 30 while Currie made a cross-country flight from North Carolina to California in pursuit of Washington State coach Mike Leach. The last his bosses knew, he was supposed to be in North Carolina trying close a deal with N.C. State coach Dave Doeren.
Currie, in the interview with AthleticDirectorU.com, offered three takeaways that he learned from the end of his tenure.
"We always have to stick with our core values and our integrity, and I never wavered from mine in that process," Currie said. "We also have to remember that we have to be professionals. Despite whatever the circumstances are around us, we're the ones that are expected to operate with that integrity, to protect our student-athletes and our institutions, and we have to remember that.
"The other thing that I would say that I've been reminded of is how important our support systems, our personal support systems, are around us - our families, our colleagues, our professional colleagues."
Currie was Kansas State's athletic director for eight years before he returned to Tennessee, where he had been an athletic department staffer earlier in his career. He is well-respected within the AD community.
"I'm incredibly grateful for the relationships that I've built over 25 years," Currie said in the interview. "I heard from so many people, some of whom I hadn't talked to in a long time, that told me they were thinking about me, that they trusted me and believed in me. I'm grateful for that."
Currie and his wife have two children, and he said that "through this tribulation, I've been reminded of how resilient they are."
"I've tried my best to set an example that when we go through trials and tribulations and adversity, we can't depart from who we are," Currie said. "We can't depart from our core values. We can't panic. We've got to keep marching through, and we get on the other side, and we look back and we realize that everybody goes through tough times, and it was our turn."
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