Who's running the show at Tennessee?

So here are the non-game related questions of the day in the Southeastern Conference.

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Who is making the decisions at the University of Tennessee in its search for a new football coach?

Is it new athletic director John Currie and an administration looking for better times at Rocky Top?

Or is it a fan base, led by local radio talk show personality named Clay Travis, who once led a movement to get NFL telecasts to the Virgin Islands by going on a "pudding strike.'' And once had an interview cut short on CNN by saying he believed in two things, "the first amendment and boobs.'' And clearly didn't want Currie's choice, former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano?

Silly questions right?

At most places, absolutely.

In the heart of SEC territory in Knoxville, Tenn., where fantasy and reality having been living together for more than 10 years?

Not so much.

What has happened at Tennessee the past few days concerning Schiano, who is working this week as defensive coordinator at Ohio State as it prepares for its Big Ten championship game match up with unbeaten Wisconsin, is as disgusting as it is mind-boggling.

For a little while, it looked like Currie had things under control in his search to replace Butch Jones, whom Currie fired shortly after the Volunteers ended an embarrassing season in the Southeastern Conference.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Currie, who has been in Knoxville for all of nine months, had successfully avoided the hysterical nonsense created by Volunteer fans who thought Jon Gruden was a cross between Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi and the only person qualified to lead Tennessee back into the clover of a Top 10 team competing for not only an SEC title, but a national championship.

Currie had done his homework. He learned that Tennessee football, which hasn't been relevant for more than a decade was not a "go to'' job that almost any head coach from a Power 5 conference would covet.

He knew Gruden was a No Go. He knew that former Oregon coach Chip Kelly was also a non-starter.

So Currie went to Schiano, who had been contacted by Tennessee several years ago when he was leading Rutgers out of the perpetual wilderness known as RU football. Schiano opted for the NFL and Tampa, which turned into a mistake made by many college coaches, including a guy down in Alabama named Nick Saban.

Part of the vetting process conducted by Currie was to examine Schiano's five seasons working at Penn State during the time long-time Nittany Lion assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing young boys.

Schiano's name was mentioned as part of the proceedings on a second-hand, unsubstantiated basis. It was investigated, with no substance or credibility given to any involvement by Schiano--who swears he did not know what was going on with Sandusky.

Every job that Schiano had in the past several years has involved vetting his background and time at Penn State. No one, including the Bucs, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and long time friend New England Patriot head coach Bill Belichick had any questions about Schiano's character or background.

It was and should be a non-issue.

Currie thought so as well. ""We carefully vetted and interviewed Coach Schiano,'' said Currie in a statement less than 24 hours after Currie and Tennessee back out of a ""memorandum of understanding'' that Tennessee had reached with Schiano.

Word leaked out and in this world of social media, the reaction from Volunteer fans was not positive. It would be bad enough if the reason for disapproval was that they felt Schiano was just not a good enough football coach or had a high enough profile to merit coaching at Tennessee.

Since Tennessee has had a recent history which included failures by Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and now Butch Jones for a variety of reasons, the Volunteer faithful knew they needed a better reason for rejection.

So the movement started about Schiano being directly involved in the Sandusky case. It didn't matter that there was NO evidence other than unproven allegations on a second-hand basis.

This was a trap issue, akin to being asked "When did you stop beating your wife?''

The rumors, fueled by Travis, who wanted Gruden, the former NFL coach, to come back to Tennessee, went viral. It was picked up by local politicians and merchants.

Protesters with signs appeared on the UT campus, condemning Schiano. It didn't matter if most of this "outraged'' group of fans and politicians probably had no idea who Greg Schiano was a few days ago.

It was not only a protest, it was a character assassination of a good coach and a good person.

I'm a Jersey Guy. I know Greg Schiano, who is also a Jersey guy. I have no doubts about his integrity. I like Greg Schiano and have little doubt that he would have been a good choice for Tennessee, which clearly needs to fix what is broken.

Schiano did that for 11 seasons at Rutgers. Let me repeat Greg Schiano WON at Rutgers. He built a program. Since he left, Rutgers has steadily slid backwards into the junk pile.

If Schiano was rejected because his pedigree was not high profile enough , so be it. I disagree, but that's a matter of opinion.

But to provide legs for the Sandusky case and link it to Schiano?

That is professionally reprehensible.

UT officials maintain that was not the reason for their reversal. Arguments are now being made that a dissatisfied fan base is reason enough to influence or change a decision.


What does that say about the fan base and Currie, a person hired to lead the UT athletic defense?

Yet, Currie and lots of other people at UT caved in. Maybe it is time to change the Tennessee nickname for the Volunteers to the Spineless Jellyfish.

And know this. This "mistake'' is going to cost UT, which must pay off several million dollars to settle Jones' contract and must commit several million dollars for its next coach. Schiano's reputation has been damaged in the most public of all venues.

Which brings us back to the next topic? Where does UT go from here and who makes the decision?

Not to worry. Our friend, former Providence Journal sports columnist Jim Donaldson-who is a Notre Dame guy--sometimes makes sense. This is one of those times.

""The answer is obvious,'' said Donaldson. ""Put out a tweet and ask for names. The person with the most votes should get offered the job.''[/membership]