As Tennessee’s botched coaching search plunges further down the social-media rabbit hole, there was yet another development earlier today that will likely leave lawyers on both sides licking their billable-hours chops.
At least three media outlets Monday (Knoxville News Sentinel, Chattanooga Times Free Press, ESPN.com) reported that UT chancellor Beverly Davenport never signed a memorandum of understanding between the university and Greg Schiano. The former Rutgers head coach and current Ohio State defensive coordinator had been athletic director John Currie‘s choice to replace Butch Jones before a backlash driven by social media and fueled by a third-hand connection to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State forced the university to back away from a hiring.
It was thought that, because Schiano and Currie had signed the memorandum, Schiano would be entitled to some sort of compensation stemming from an agreement so far down the road that, according to Peter King of MMQB.com, a plane was in Columbus Sunday afternoon set to take both to an introductory press conference in Knoxville later that evening. However, the fact that Davenport hadn’t signed the document has led some to question whether Schiano has a legal leg to stand on if he were to pursue some type of lawsuit against UT.
“[W]ithout Davenport’s signature, the memorandum could lack legal credibility if Schiano were to pursue litigation against Tennessee,” the Times Free Press wrote. “One veteran athletic director told ESPN that if the chancellor’s signature was missing, he would not consider the document to be fully executed and therefore legally binding,” the WWL noted.
However, if it was Currie/UT alone backing away from a signed agreement, Schiano and his lawyer(s) could still have a case if they choose to pursue it.
“I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved,” Davenport said in a statement released earlier Monday. “The university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search to bring the next head football coach to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”
Since Currie allowed social media to turn the search for a head coach into a laughable three-ring clown show, one Penn State trustee came out very publicly in Schiano’s defense, as have Bill Belichick (HERE) and Urban Meyer (HERE). Conversely, there is growing speculation that Currie, who was hired nine months ago, may not survive this debacle as some boosters behind the scene are pushing for his ouster.
Regardless, as much as the Volunteers have struggled on the field the last several years, they are now even more laughable off of it. Good luck, thanks to acquiescing to a vocal Twitter minority, getting anyone of substance to come to Rocky Top and help resurrect the once-proud football program.