Without a doubt, the University of Tennessee's head coach hiring process has made far more news than the school would have preferred — and the university's response to the almost-hiring of Greg Schiano has only made things worse.
In a series of statements on Monday, school officials addressed the controversy surrounding the "memorandum of understanding" initially signed by athletic director John Currie and Schiano but rescinded on Sunday amid strong backlash over Schiano's alleged role in the heinous Jerry Sandusky child rape case.
The statement that caused the most stir was Currie's defense of the university's initial decision to hire Schiano. In the statement, Currie praised Schiano as one of the "most respected professional and college football coaches" and stressed that the university "carefully interviewed and vetted him."
Noting that Schiano worked for Penn State from 1990-95, Currie said the university "of course" looked closely at the Sandusky case:
Consequently, we, of course, carefully reviewed the 2012 investigation report by Louis Freeh. Coach Schiano is not mentioned in the Freeh report and was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation. We also confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter. And, we conferred with our colleagues at The Ohio State University, who had conducted a similar inquiry after the 2016 release of testimony.
Currie's defense of the search committee's vetting process and initial decision to hire Schiano prompted more backlash from critics, who accused the university of essentially admitting that they had given into public pressure and rescinded the offer to placate the masses rather than out of a sense of integrity.
Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport issued her own statement on the debacle, which she said she "deeply regret[s]," and expressed confidence in Currie, who had suddenly found himself on the heat seat. "I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved," said Davenport, adding that "the university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search."
After initial reports that both parties had signed the memorandum of understanding that Schiano would be the next head football coach of the Volunteers, the school now says that only Currie signed the memorandum, not Chancellor Davenport, thus it was non-binding. ABC 6 reports:
Chancellor’s office spokesman Ryan Robinson told WATE 6 On Your Side Davenport did not sign the memorandum, a day after Tennessee backed out of a deal to make Schiano the next head football coach.
Yahoo Sports reported that Athletic Director John Currie and Schiano had signed the memorandum, which as a legally binding interim contract could mean a payout to Schiano if all parties had signed, according to WATE 6 On Your Side legal analyst Greg Isaacs.
The claim that Schiano "covered up child rape at Penn State" stems from a statement by former Penn State assistant Mike McQueary in a deposition for the Sandusky serial child rape case in which McQueary claimed that Schiano and former Penn State assistant Coach Tom Bradley both had some knowledge about Sandusky's behavior with young boys. Read the full deposition statement here.