TN politicans join fans in shooting down Schiano as UT head football coach; Haslam concerned about ‘rush to judgment’

State legislators and Tennessee gubernatorial candidates joined fans in a revolt that apparently derailed a tentative deal for making Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano the University of Tennessee’s next head football coach, according to media reports.

From the Associated Press:

Their complaints stemmed from Schiano’s background as an assistant at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky’s tenure as the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse.

Court documents released last year of a deposition in a case related to the Sandusky scandal suggested Schiano might have been aware of Sandusky’s sexual abuse against children, though Schiano says he had no knowledge of what was happening at the time.

“The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee,” Tennessee State Rep. Jeremy Faison said. “They’re the face of our state. We don’t need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life as the highest-paid state employee. It’s egregious to the people and it’s wrong to the taxpayers.”

Faison was one of at least three state representatives who went on Twitter or issued statements to criticize the possibility of Tennessee hiring Schiano. Republican gubernatorial candidates Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Beth Harwell and Bill Lee also relayed their objections to a Schiano hire.

State Rep. Eddie Smith tweeted that “a Greg Schiano hire would be anathema to all that our University and our community stand for.”

The Tennessean has collected Twitter statements from gubernatorial candidates and some legislators:

U.S. Rep. Diane Black: “Absolute wrong choice and I hope these reports are incorrect. As a supporter and season ticker holder, I know UT can do better.”

Former state Sen. Mae Beavers (in two tweets): “The coach UT hires should reflect Tennessee values” … “Maybe UT needs to reconsider their leadership.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell: “If true, this is the wrong choice for @Vol_Football. We need a coach who is a true leader and who shares our TN values.”

Businessman Bill Lee: “We expect the highest standards for our public institutions. The special few chosen to lead within those institutions should have a demonstrated history of integrity and character. I hope today’s rumors are not true, because protecting children is more important than anything.”

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh: #UTK should—and I believe will—uphold the Volunteer Creed in all hiring decisions. I do wish that those in #TNLeg majority party, who reacted so quickly to rumors today, had done the same when situation involved one of their own.”

Fitzhugh is seeking the Democratic nomination. The others are seeking the Republican nomination.

UPDATE/Note: Gov. Bill Haslam had this to say on Monday, reports The Tennessean:

“First of all, I wasn’t involved in the search at all,” Haslam said after a speech before the Rotary Club of Nashville. “The governor doesn’t need to be picking football coaches.”

“That being said, I do think we should all be concerned about a rush to judgment,” Haslam said. “No matter who you are, in today’s social media world where there are no editors to stop and say is that true, you can have a tsunami before anybody has ever said, ‘what are the facts here?'”


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