A little over two years ago, Tennessee fans rioted against the potential hiring of then-Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as the Vols’ next head coach. Fans, media members, and even politicians got involved in online and on-campus protests when it was leaked that then-Athletics Director John Currie was set to hire Schiano.
The reason? Schiano’s ties — however tenuous — to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Schiano was an assistant under Joe Paterno at the time of the alleged incidents that occurred at Penn State, and Vol fans protested Schiano’s hiring because of that and his lackluster record as a collegiate and professional head coach.
After torpedoing that hire, Currie was summarily rejected by a handful of other candidates before going rogue and attempting to hire away Washington State head coach Mike Leach. Currie was called back to Knoxville where he was suspended indefinitely from his duties, and Phillip Fulmer was appointed as interim AD. Within a week, Fulmer had hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to lead the Vols on the football field.
As for Schiano, he remained at Ohio State for the 2018 season before leaving that next offseason. He took a job as the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, but he resigned from that position a month later.
Now, Schiano is back in his old stomping grounds up in New Jersey.
Rutgers announced this week that Schiano had been hired as the Scarlet Knights’ next head coach. Schiano had previously served as the head coach of Rutgers from 2001-11 before jumping to the NFL to try his hand as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ironically, it was because of fan backlash that Schiano was hired at Rutgers this time around.
Rutgers and Schiano were in talks to bring on the former head coach as the Knights’ new head man, but then talks broke off due to the alleged high demands of Schiano. Fans and boosters were outraged that the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and many threatened to pull money and support of Rutgers’ football program if Schiano wasn’t hired.
In the end, Schiano and Rutgers came to an agreement, and now he’s the Knights’ “new” coach.
On Wednesday, Schiano was introduced officially as the new head coach of Rutgers, and he was asked about both protests — the one in Knoxville to keep him away from Tennessee and the one in New Jersey to bring him in.
Schiano didn’t hold back in his answer, throwing a jab towards the Tennessee fans who shunned him two years ago.
“I think reflecting on it, just shows Jersey people are a little sharper,” Schiano stated per quotes from the New York Post. “They get it.”
Vol fans, for now, are likely happy at their decision to balk at hiring Schiano, as the man who was hired in his stead, Jeremy Pruitt, has helped bring some positive momentum to Tennessee’s football program after a rocky first year and a half at the helm. Pruitt’s first Vol squad went 5-7 despite two upset victories over ranked teams against Auburn and Kentucky, and Tennessee began the 2019 season 1-4 after losing to Georgia State, BYU, Florida, and Georgia.
But since then, Tennessee has gone 6-1 and closed out the regular season with a 7-5 record and a 5-3 mark in SEC play, the Vols’ best conference record since 2015. Tennessee will be going to a bowl game for the first time since 2016 as well.
As for Schiano, he will look to rebuild a Rutgers program that has fallen back into the depths of ineptitude the program was in when he first took over as head coach nearly two decades ago. The Scarlet Knights have gone a combined 3-21 over the last two seasons, and they’ve won a combined 13 games over the last five seasons. Rutgers’ last winning season was an 8-5 campaign in 2014 under then-head coach Kyle Flood.
When Schiano was first hired as the Knights’ head coach in 2001, Rutgers had gone 4-18 in the previous two seasons before he was hired, with their last winning season coming in 1992. Schiano was 68-67 as Rutgers’ head coach, taking the Scarlet Knights to six bowl appearances in seven years from 2005-11.