The Tennessee Volunteers football team made a shockingly bad decision Sunday when it hired Ohio State defense coordinator Greg Schiano as head football coach.
Schiano was less than stellar as the coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, going 68–67 in 11 seasons. Admittedly, he was starting with one of the worst programs in college football. He was downright awful as the head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012 to 2013, going 11–21. However, it is other skeletons, once thought to be left in his closet for good, that have resurfaced and caused this newfound criticism.
Schiano was the defensive backs coach at Penn State, where he worked under eventually convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky from 1990 to 1995. Whistleblowing assistant coach Mike McQueary alleges Schiano looked the other way on the continued abuse. As the Washington Post reports:
“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.”
… Schiano denied the allegation, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter: “I never saw any abuse nor had reason to suspect any abuse during my time at Penn State.”
These claims — while likely true — have still never been investigated. So we don’t exactly know they’re right. Vols fans were quick to point out the allegations after reports came out the two sides agreed to a deal to name Schiano the team’s 24th full-time head coach. In my opinion, it’s just an easy out for a group of fans overzealous in their expectations and conversely, their disappointment, to justify not wanting to hire a mediocre coach to replace a somewhat decent one. Tennessee fans have had the chance to condemn sexual assault allegations time and time again and have refused to do so until now.
When legendary UT quarterback Peyton Manning, once floated as a possible pick to replace Sen. Bob Corker, was accused of sexual assault, hardly anyone took it seriously due to Manning’s near-demigod status in Knoxville. Many wrote the incident off as a case of “boys being boys” or justifying it with the trite maxim “everyone does stupid things in college.”
In 2016, the university also paid out a Title IX lawsuit for nearly $2.5 million to eight women alleging it created a “hostile sexual environment” by looking the other way on accusations against its football and basketball players — part of more than $4 million the university paid from 2015 to 2016. Then-athletic director Dave Hart was allowed to retire after his role in the scandal, as opposed to being immediately fired.
None of this saw strong protests from university students, alumni and donors anywhere near the level of the current scenario. That’s both inconsistent and hypocritical.
With all this in mind, there’s a mind-blowing, yet accurate, conclusion for me to make: Tennesseans hold their flagship public university’s football coach to a higher standard than they do the president of the United States.
More than 59 percent of Knox County residents voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. As expected, he ended up easily winning the state with more than 1.5 million votes. Many Republicans who ended up endorsing or working for Trump pressured the university to back out of the deal.
2018 gubernatorial candidate, Rep. Diane Black:
2018 gubernatorial candidate, former state Rep. Mae Beavers:
2018 gubernatorial candidate, businessman Bill Lee:
2018 U.S. Congress candidate, businessman Jason Emert:
State Rep. Jeremy Faison:
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
All of this deeply shows the hypocrisy of the Republican Party — the same party that nominated and elected Donald Trump, an admitted molester, and is trying to do the same with one of its current candidates for the United States Senate, alleged child molester Roy Moore, whom Trump has failed to condemn time and time again.
Somehow, these sycophants think it’s okay to look the other way on sexual assault when it’s someone they agree with or like, but when it’s someone they dislike, it’s fair game to criticize them, “morals” suddenly mattering again. This is tribalism at its worst.
Mae Beavers’ use of the phrase “Tennessee values” in her statement above is too general, making her outrage seemed feigned. It is clear her looking the other way on Trump’s and others’ alleged sexual misconduct because it’s the convenient thing to do is itself a Tennessee value, unfortunately.
For Sarah Huckabee Sanders to cite the Washington Post, a news organization her boss and his cronies regularly decry, is also inconsistent. You shouldn’t pick and choose news sources based on whether you like what they’re saying at any one time; instead, you should cite sources you believe are valid and truthful. Sanders herself has previously stated she “wouldn’t use the Washington Post” as a reputable source, but somehow she thinks it’s OK to use when it’s not making the president look bad. Additionally, she regularly covers for her boss, saying all of the women who accuse the president of sexual assault “are lying.”
To me, this is all just an excuse to hate on the Haslam family, which plays a key (but unofficial) role in selecting Volunteer athletic personnel. The family is a prominent bunch of incredibly wealthy UT alumni — Jimmy, Sen. Corker’s college roommate, is the owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and his younger brother Bill has been governor since 2011.
Vols fans are not happy Jimmy is a major influence on athletic hiring decisions. Similarly, many Tennesseans believe Bill is a Republican-in-name-only, or RINO. The younger Haslam brother called for then-nominee Donald Trump to step down from the presidential race after a recording was released of the candidate making lewd and sexist comments. He also called for the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest to be removed from the state Capitol rotunda. The Haslams are viewed by some as too much of “insiders” to make trustworthy decisions on behalf of Tennessee’s government as well as its most popular college football team.
Moral of the story: Tennessee fans are just rebelling against their supposed RINO governor as best they can for now.
In the end, it seems Tennesseans care more about the fate of their football team than the character of the leaders they select. When it comes down to it, they’re willing to selectively co-opt claims of sexual abuse for the sole motive of political expediency. ■
Editor’s Note: As of publication Wednesday, the Tennessee Volunteers have yet to hire a new head football coach.