As the college regular football season comes to a close, teams are gearing up for bowl season. Despite preseason expectations, the Tennessee Volunteers will be watching from home. Hopes were high for the Tennessee Volunteers, after closing last season at number 22 in the college football poll, and remaining in the top 25 in pre-season rankings. Their seasons proved to be nothing short of disastrous as the former SEC powerhouse was miserable in conference play, going 0-8 after. Tennessee, along with Ohio State was the only team in college football to never finish with over 7 losses, making this season historically bad for the Vols. Coach Butch Jones got the boot following a 50-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers. Athletic director John Currie summarized the decisions, saying, “Late [Saturday] night, it was evident this was probably the direction we needed to go for the best of all concerned.”
Currie, faced with the the task of replacing his head coach, turned to Ohio State coordinator Greg Schiano as his first pick, before facing significant backlash from fans, as response to Schiano’s alleged connection to the Penn State child sex scandal. Tennessee State Representative Jeremy Faison even commented on the issue saying; “If you hire him, the backlash will be insurmountable and devastating to the University and the state.” Schiano’s connection to the scandal; however, is something that needs to be examined more closely in order to understand the situation, and in context, hardly a reason for him to be passed over for a head coach position. While he had worked at Penn State as a coordinator from 1990-1995, Schiano was not one of the 400 people interviewed for the Freeh report, the independent investigation of the scandal headed by U.S. Attorney Louis Freeh. While fans may have legitimate qualms with Schiano’s coaching style and abilities, and track record as head coach of Rutgers, claims about his connection to the Penn State Scandal are both unfair and unfounded. Despite this, Tennessee retracted Schiano’s offer, and fired Athletic director John Currie for his handling of the situation.
In order to replace Currie, Tennessee brought in coaching legend, Phillip Fulmer. Fulmer had been passed over in favor of Currie in February. Fulmer faces a difficult task, finding the right head coach to take over the dysfunctional program.