In the age of conspiracy, misinformation campaigns, and a society that seems divided into camps of believe-nothing or believe-anything, transparency is precious. And access to truth, by way of Freedom Of Information requests, are often the only way to decode the movements of those in power and separate the truth from the PR. In other words, laws that force transparency are very important.
But it would be a stretch to call the John Currie dox anything besides hollow voyeurism.
If you’re behind, Tennessee settled and finally, officially parted ways with embattled, suspended Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director John Currie on Thursday. The settlement was to the tune of $2.5 million. The two parties exchanged pleasantries in official statements, and the University cooled hot-takes by including that no student tuition or taxpayer funds would cover the payout. The Athletics Department would handle it, the resolution was deemed “amicable,” and we can all move on. Tennessee moves on to spring football and John Currie can go buy a $2.5 million sandwich.
Then, because that was all far too easy and too clean, the University Of Tennessee, in response to a Freedom Of Information request from multiple media outlets, released all of John Currie’s texts, private messages, and emails.
(Note: Don’t misconstrue anything from me here on as sympathy for John Currie. He can cry into a trash bag of $100 bills. Tennessee is better without him.)
Between those of us in the press (in a constant struggle to discover/observe/report and balance speed and quality) and Tennessee’s wild-eyed, jet-tracking landscape of fans, separating the truth from noise during Currie’s crazy coaching quest was, to put it lightly, a mess. The FOI was going to show us the truth about the shadowy back channeling and power-brokering that went down on the inside.
Unfortunately, the at-all significant points we learned from the avalanche of messages amounted to very, very little.
We already knew most, if not all, of the plot points in the story. Currie’s whereabouts and plans were available, often reported in real time. Minor details, like Mike Leach texting “from a bike path” were new, but hardly interesting. We learned that Thunder Thornton and Bill Battle felt like Phillip Fulmer would take the job if offered, but was that actually a mystery?
Imagine having your phone cracked open and a year of conversations dissected by the general public, not because you’d committed any actual crimes, but because we don’t really have much else going on right now and we’re legally allowed.
Beyond the unsurprising, unsexy, but semi-relevant revelations, the rest of what we’re seeing is some combination of irrelevant and humiliating, the latter of which making it hot fodder for sports radio/social media trolling. And within minutes, John Currie, a man whose only actual transgression was trying to hire Greg Schiano, saw his private transmissions being dragged far and wide.
There were weird messages from UT influencers, group texts to Tennessee’s coaches, local media personalities thirsting for preferential treatment, and Currie’s now notorious, cringeworthy exchange with USA Today Sports writer Dan Wolken where the two discussed Wolken trying to sell the Schiano hire to the public and featured lol’s and smiley faces from Dan Wolken. The splashiest moment of the whole info avalanche came between Currie and Wolken, with the then-AD calling Tennessee fans “Wackos.”
But remember, we learned all this while digging through John Currie’s old texts like 102,455 crazy ex-girlfriends.
In short, this FOI has done very little to this point, besides offering up a buffet of cheap fodder for trolls and bullies. No matter how much off-season boredom it offsets, its just the newest ugly moment in a year of almost exclusively ugly moments for the Tennessee football landscape. Yes, Vol Twitter expedited Butch Jones’s exit, blocked Schiano, and fired John Currie. But eventually all that self-righteous mob justice comes at a heavy cost to the Tennessee Brand, and that’s hard damage to undo.
Good things came of it all, but there’s still plenty of negativity to sift through.
The hiring of Phillip Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt offered the UT athletic department and Tennessee football a much needed chance to hit reset. It might be time for the rest of us to hit reset, too, and try to put the useless ugliness behind us and just get back to being people who enjoy and cover football.