KNOXVILLE - At least one redemptive bit of news emerged from the University of Tennessee campus Monday, the day after Tennessee almost hired a football coach and backed out amid backlash from the fan base.
Chancellor Beverly Davenport did not sign a memorandum of understanding to make Greg Schiano the next Tennessee coach, Davenport's spokesman Ryan Robinson confirmed to the Times Free Press on Monday.
Yahoo Sports reported Sunday Tennessee athletic director John Currie and Schiano signed a memorandum. Shortly thereafter, Sports Illustrated published a legal analysis explaining that if all the necessary parties had signed the memorandum, Schiano could sue the university.
But without Davenport's signature, the memorandum could lack legal credibility if Schiano were to seek compensation from Tennessee. Traditionally, memorandums between Tennessee and new coaches require the signatures of the chancellor.
A UT athletics spokesperson could not confirm Monday whether or not Currie had signed the memorandum with Schiano, as reported by Yahoo.Currie did release a statement Monday defending his pursuit of Schiano as a candidate.
Specifically, Currie addressed Schiano's time at Penn State from 1990 to 1995, which coincided with the tenure of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator who is now serving a minimum 30-year sentence after his 2012 conviction on 45 charges of sexually abusing 10 boys.
In his statement, Currie said Tennessee "carefully reviewed" the 2012 investigation report by Louis Freeh into the Sandusky scandal.
"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 in the statement. "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. I know that Coach Schiano will continue to have great success in his coaching career and wish him and his family well."
Currie was scheduled to speak to the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday but canceled the appearance as Tennessee's coaching search took a new direction.
Meanwhile, Davenport released a statement noting that Currie is continuing with the coaching search.
"I deeply regret the events of [Sunday] for everyone involved," Davenport said in the statement. "The university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search to bring the next head football coach to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville."
Davenport was named chancellor last December and Currie was hired soon after. Currie started at Tennessee on April 1 after eight-plus years as the athletic director at Kansas State University. He did not require a football coach during his time at Kansas State, which followed several years in the athletic department at Tennessee.
Currie fired Butch Jones on Nov. 12 after Tennessee lost 50-17 at Missouri and fell to 4-6. Jones led Tennessee to back-to-back 9-4 seasons in 2015 and 2016 but failed to win the SEC East in his first four seasons and became increasingly unpopular with fans amid a tumultuous 2017 season, which was his fifth in Knoxville.
The Times Free Press reported that former Super Bowl champion NFL coach Jon Gruden had contacted potential assistants to gauge their interest in joining a staff at Tennessee. Gruden, now an analyst for ESPN, appeared to be a fan-favorite candidate, and this wasn't the first time he had flirted with Tennessee without taking the job.
Currie reportedly turned his attention to former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen this past weekend, but Mullen accepted the head coaching position at Florida on Sunday and Currie turned his attention to Schiano.
By Sunday night, the fan base had revolted against the move to hire Schiano and the deal was nixed.