According to reports, Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and the University of Tennessee had reached a deal on Sunday for Schiano to take over as the new head coach of the Volunteers football team. But when word spread that Schiano was offered the job, a disputed claim about the coach from a deposition statement released in 2016 sparked outrage from fans and pushback from state political leaders. Amid the backlash, Tennessee withdrew its offer to Schiano.
In a case that shook college football to its core, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused in 2011 of serial rape of young boys he approached through his children's charity, The Second Mile, a series of crimes that took place over 15 years. In 2012, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. The shocking case ended the over four decades-long coaching career of Joe Paterno, who died shortly after being fired, and left many asking who knew what when.
In his deposition for the Sandusky case released to the public in 2016, former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary claimed that Schiano and former Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley were aware on some level of Sandusky's behavior. McQueary said that in the early 1990s, Bradley told him that Schiano "had come into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower."
Both Schiano and Bradley deny McQueary's account.
Below is an excerpt of the passage from McQueary's deposition that appears to have cost Schiano the Volunteers head coaching job:
Q: Did [Bradley] tell you that he had had information concerning Gerald Sandusky and children?
A: He said he knew of some things.
Q: And did he tell you what he knew of?
Q: What did he tell you?
A: He said another assistant coach had come to him in the early ‘90s about a very similar situation to mine, and he said that he had—someone had come to him as far back as early as the ‘80s about seeing Jerry Sandusky doing something with a boy.
Q: Did he identify who the other coaches were that had given him this information?
A: The one in the early ‘90s, yes.
Q: And who was that?
A: Greg Schiano.
Q: Greg Schiano?
Q: And did he give you any details about what Coach Schiano had reported to him?
A: No, only that he had—I can’t remember if it was one night or one morning, but that Greg had come into his office white as a ghost and said he just saw Jerry doing something to a boy in the shower. And that’s it. That’s all he ever told me.
Q: Did he tell you what, if anything, he had done about that?
A: No, he didn’t share with me.
ESPN reported Sunday that sources say Tennessee and Schiano had both signed a memorandum of understanding that Schiano would be the next head football coach, but the university "backed out" on Sunday amid mounting backlash over reports of his hiring, which included about 100 protesters gathering on the campus declaring "Schia-NO!" and accusing him of having "covered up child rape at Penn State."
Schiano and his current and former employers at Ohio State and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have pushed back on the claim. Bradley has also denied McQueary's accusation.
UPDATE: Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie issued a statement on Monday defending the university's initial decision to hire Schiano.
"We carefully interviewed and vetted him, as we do candidates for all positions," said Currie. "He received the highest recommendations for character, family values and commitment to academic achievement and student-athlete welfare from his current and former athletics directors, players, coaching colleagues and experienced media figures."
Currie said the school "carefully reviewed" Louis Freeh's 2012 investigation and noted that it did not mention Schiano. Schiano was also "never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter." Curried noted that Ohio State conducted their own review and likewise concluded that Schiano did not appear to be culpable.