This should go without saying, but hiring a head coach isn’t easy.

So when a quality coach falls into your lap and is interested, you get their signature on the dotted line.

Former Tennessee athletic director John Currie accomplished this goal. Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano was interested in Tennessee’s coaching vacancy. Currie was interested in him. Probably for reasons outside of football — cough cough Jimmy Haslam cough cough — but there’s a lot to like about Schiano as a head coaching prospect.

Tennessee football in 2017 was a historic disaster for the prestigious program. Schiano specializes in fixing disasters — he took a Rutgers program that went to precisely zero bowl game appearances from 1979 until his arrival in 2001 and took the Scarlet Knights bowling six times during his final seven seasons in Camden.

Say what you want about Schiano’s personality, and if you’re uncomfortable with his extremely loose ties to the Penn State scandal, that’s understandable. But labeling him as an awful hire from a coaching perspective is simply inaccurate.

Regardless, Vol Nation — as well as the Knoxville media — was satisfied when Currie and Schiano called their deal off, even if the repercussions of such an unprecedented reaction to social media outrage resulted in crippling consequences.

Instead, Currie was forced into an impromptu second act of his coaching search, which resulted in him visiting and offering multiple coaches in a short time span. This process eventually led to Washington State’s Mike Leach, who reportedly said yes, but was then turned down by Tennessee’s administration.

Currie was then promptly fired.

Now, newly anointed athletic director/Vol coaching legend Phillip Fulmer leads the charge. If you want to know how that’s going, here’s a brief synopsis — Fulmer loves Tennessee, tweeted out a video that utilized an awful cover of The Beatles’ classic “Come Together,” and could potentially hire Kevin Steele as the Vols’ next head coach.

In case you were wondering, Steele’s career record as the man in charge is a healthy 9-36.

It’s hard to hire coaches. It’s especially hard when every circumstance was working against Tennessee from the beginning.

Had Chip Kelly or Scott Frost accepted the Florida job — a better job than Tennessee’s — then Dan Mullen is in Knoxville today recruiting and developing quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.

But that’s not what transpired. Kelly opted to go with fit (UCLA), while Frost went home (Nebraska). As a former Florida offensive coordinator, it was a no-brainer that the Mullen-Gator marriage was about to take shape.

Ultimately, this was the scenario which forced Currie’s hand. Given Schiano’s track record as a program builder and recruiter, it was as safe a hire as Currie could’ve possibly made.

Yet, that wasn’t good enough to please anybody in Knoxville. They wanted fireworks — Jon Gruden, Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach. Big names and even bigger personalities. At this point, Vol Nation should just want someone, anyone, to take the job.

Knoxville is gathered around the campfire and singing Kumbaya to the return of Phillip Fulmer. However, what’s been lost here is that while other programs are finding coaching replacements in a matter of days, Tennessee’s administration allowed itself to be overran by an online mob, which hurts the program’s brand and makes a deteriorating job even more unattractive.

Rocky Top’s desire for the return of the 1990s is stronger than ever, but in order to retain past glory, you have to get the ball rolling from a leadership standpoint. Tennessee has still yet to do that, and until Team 122 can latch onto a coach’s vision, the future for Tennessee football is bleak.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This article is full of horrible assumptions and suppositions. Coaches don’t always take the so-called “better” job, which is why Chip Kelley went to UCLA over Florida in the first place. Thus, saying one job is better than another is not only overly subjective, it doesn’t mean anything. Florida is not a better job. By every historical statistical measure, Tennessee is the better job. The perception that the media has fostered is that Florida is the better job. The two most storied traditions in the SEC are still Alabama and Tennessee. That’s proven with all-time winning percentage and national championships. No matter how you rank them, UT has been the number two team in the SEC due to top-tier facilities, national championships, a rabid fan-base that travels well even in down years, tradition, and a history of winning despite the recent terrible leadership at the university that has hired terrible head coaches. Even the so-called recruiting advantage is not as clear-cut in Florida’s favor. Yes, there are more fish in Florida, but there are also more fisherman. UF competes with FSU and Miami. UT doesn’t compete with Vandy for top recruits when UT has a decent coach. That’s what has drug UT down—is mismanagement, but managers change as was seen recently with Fulmer. The swamp needed to be drained and that’s why the fans were right in protesting the Schiano hire. How can you possibly say with a straight face that, “Ultimately, this was the scenario which forced Currie’s hand. Given Schiano’s track record as a program builder and recruiter, it was as safe a hire as Currie could’ve possibly made.” This statement is unequivocally false given the FACT that Currie had the Mike Leach hire set before being fired. The fact that Currie didn’t is because he was a puppet of the Haslams and the Schiano deal was the first and only real hire ever discussed. If Currie had been doing his job correctly, Currie would have gone after Mike Leach first and saved his job. The timing and pattern of Currie’s coaching search should have had you wondering why. The next rhetorical question is why Currie went after Gundy after Schiano rather than before. Because, that was all for show to cover-up Currie’s gross negligence. The only aspect of your article that is correct is the lack of leadership at UT, which has been present for the last decade that has UT trending down right now. That doesn’t mean they cannot be a giant again. Leadership is the cornerstone of any great organization or lack thereof. Schiano was another Butch Jones type hire. Currie was incompetent from the start. What purpose was served allowing Butch to continue coaching for three more weeks after abysmal performances by him and his team. UT may wind up with a lesser coach, but that again has to do with Currie bungling the entire timing of this coaching search. Currie should be fired with cause for malfeasance and insubordination. Chancellor Davenport should be fired for hiring Currie when Fulmer was overlooked because of political machinations.

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