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Tennessee had its next football coach, until fans accused him of covering up child rape

Students painted a sign of protest against hiring Ohio State assistant coach Greg Schiano to coach the Tennessee Volunteers football team. Schiano coached at Penn State in the 1990s during the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky. (Image source: Louis Fernandez Twitter account)

The University of Tennessee had its search for a head football coach derailed by outraged fans over the weekend.

UT was finalizing the paperwork to sign Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, but the school was bullied into backing out of the deal by extreme community opposition.

Why the community backlash?

Fans, politicians and business owners protested the decision to hire Schiano, based on his alleged knowledge of child molestation at Penn State University in the early-to-mid 1990s.

More than 100 people gathered outside Tennessee’s stadium Sunday to march in protest of the hire, with some even calling for the athletics director, John Currie, to be fired for the decision.

A quote by protest attendee Lee Chapman may sum the entire situation up best.

“Perception is nine-tenths reality,” Chapman said. “It doesn’t matter what the truth is, it’s what people think is the truth.”

What did Schiano do?

Schiano was an assistant coach at Penn State from 1990 to 1995. His connection to the Penn State scandal is unproven.

According to testimony released in 2016, former Penn State coach Mike McQueary said that another assistant, Tom Bradley, told him that Schiano told Bradley that he saw then-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abuse a child.

That story was never corroborated by anyone else, and despite extensive investigation and interviews about the case, Schiano was never interviewed, charged or sued.

Schiano testified and publicly denied any knowledge of such abuse.

Tennessee claims that they vetted Schiano thoroughly, as did Ohio State when the Buckeyes hired him.

“Coach Schiano is not mentioned in the Freeh report and was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation,” Currie said. “We also confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter.”

Still, the deal is off, and the protesting fans cost Schiano the job.

What now for Tennessee?

With their top candidate out of the fold, and others likely scared off by the volatile environment around the Tennessee football program, it’s not clear where the Vols will turn next for their head coach.

“I am grateful for your patience as our search for the next leader for the Tennessee football program continues, and I look forward to making that introduction soon,” Currie said in a statement.

Tennessee fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12 after five seasons, where he went 34-27 overall and 14-24 in SEC play. The Vols finished 4-6 this season and 0-6 in conference play.

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