If the Tennessee football coaching search is truly over, the Volunteers have found themselves in quite a pickle. With news breaking that current Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano appears to be next in line to take over the head coach position, fans, former players and even politicians are speaking out in anger. There seem to be a number of issues with the decision, but one question seems to be nagging at fans:
If John Currie is willing to overlook the issues in Schiano’s past, why not reach out to Lane Kiffin?
Those issues in Schiano’s past are ugly: during his time as a graduate assistant at Penn State, he was alleged to have witnessed Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of children and helped cover it up. When that story broke, he denied ever seeing or suspecting abuse during his time with the Nittany Lions.
Kiffin himself is no stranger to controversy, but hasn’t been accused of anything as alarming as Schiano. Instead, the former Tennessee head coach’s headlines have come through unceremonious exits at several jobs, social media jokes and silly rumors of him flirting with women under the alias “Joey Freshwater.” As opposed to Schiano’s potentially sinister past, Kiffin seems to have struggled with immaturity more than anything else. Of course, that immaturity directly affected the Vols in 2010 when Kiffin left to take the head coaching job at USC after just one season in Knoxville.
The question remains: If Currie is willing to look past an unpleasant history, why isn’t Vol Twitter freaking out about a potential Kiffin return instead of Schiano’s hiring?
It’s not as if the latter is a perfect candidate outside of the scandal, either. Schiano had six winning seasons in 11 years as the head coach of Rutgers, including an 11-2 record in 2006. Compare that to Kiffin, whose teams have finished with a record over .500 in all five of his full years as a college head coach, with his 2011 USC team topping the group at 10-2. Even the season in which he was fired before making it back to USC’s campus, Kiffin’s Trojans managed a 3-2 record.
Both coaches also had brief, unsuccessful stops in the NFL. Kiffin was 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders, while Schiano went 11-21 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012-13, his last experience as a head coach. Neither left a particularly good impression – the former was called a “flat-out liar” by then-Raiders general manager Al Davis, while the latter was accused of repeatedly undermining quarterback Josh Freeman.
As for their work as coordinators, Kiffin has been regarded as a great offensive coach in all of his stops. Before taking the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University last offseason, he was the offensive coordinator on an Alabama team that finished 15th in the nation in points per game. Schiano’s work as OSU’s defensive coordinator has also been solid, as the Buckeyes rank 20th this season in points allowed per game, even after giving up 55 points to Iowa.
The point is, Greg Schiano has a number of flaws as a coaching candidate in addition to the horrifying allegations about his role in the Penn State scandal. If John Currie is okay with overlooking something that major, why can’t he swallow his pride and forget about Kiffin’s immaturity and ugly departure to hire the better candidate?
The bottom line is this: Schiano’s hiring has inspired a massive, deserved backlash. As uncomfortable as it may be to welcome Kiffin back to Knoxville, isn’t it better than welcoming a man who may have played a part in one of the biggest and most disgusting scandals in college football history?