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Texts, emails detail John Currie calling Tennessee fans ‘wacko,’ ‘broken WiFi’ that preceded ouster

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Not surprisingly, Tennessee’s circus of a search for a new head football coach was just as wild on the inside as it looked from the outside.

Multiple media outlets Friday released text messages, direct messages and emails pertaining to John Currie, who began the search to replace Butch Jones as Tennessee’s athletic director but was suspended partway through the process as part of what some described as an athletic department coup.  One of the more bizarre exchanges came during the infamous Greg Schiano imbroglio, with Currie referring to the Volunteer fan base as “wacko” and simultaneously elicits some “PR” help from USA Today sportswriter Dan Wolken.

Jones was fired on Nov. 12 of last year.  In the 25 days between that firing and the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt Dec. 7, Tennessee replaced Currie with Phillip Fulmer as athletic director and were reportedly turned down by Mike LeachDave DoerenKevin SumlinJeff BrohmMike Gundy and David Cutcliffe.  It was the pursuit of Leach that turned out to be the tipping point for the end of Currie’s tenure in Knoxville.

On Nov. 30, Currie, still in pursuit of the North Carolina State coach, flew out to Los Angeles for a meeting with the Washington State head coach after the two had apparently reached a verbal agreement in talks leading up to the face-to-face.  In fact, Leach’s agent, Gary O’Hagan, stated in a subsequent message to UT general counsel Matthew Scoggins that “[w]e negotiated earnestly and in good faith and feel we had reached and agreed to a deal.”

However, on the flight out to LA, Currie was out of touch with his superiors for a period of roughly six hours, which the then-AD blamed on a WiFi outage on the plane.

“I am very sorry for the stress I caused by the Wifi outage on the Delta flight,” Currie wrote in an email. “I had every intention of being able to communicate and that we could still get (Dave Doeren) deal done while I was traveling but without an immediate answer, the negative social media assaults against him and and the media news of their negotiating with NCSU, I was concerned that I needed to be in position to meet with other candidate[s] including Coach Leach who’s (sic) was in LA recruiting.”

Another missive stated that “[t]he plane I was on had broken WiFi. I am so sorry.”

From WBIR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville:

At 4:14 on the afternoon of November 30, Currie sent a group text saying, “[Leach] wants the job, but I have not offered or discussed terms with him. He has to leave for a visit at 2 (Pacific time). Can someone please call me back?”

At 4:26 p.m., UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport texted Curried saying, “We need you to come back to Knoxville tonight.”

Currie responded, “What should I tell coach Leach?”

“Tell him you have nothing more you can talk with him about,” Davenport replied.

In response to Currie’s emailed apology for the stress his being out of contact caused, Davenport wrote that “[a]fter finally connecting, you informed me that you were in California heading into a meeting with Mike Leach. This was the first I had heard of this meeting.”

“Because of the confusion from earlier in the day with the other candidate [Doeren], I asked you not to pursue any discussions about employment with any additional candidates,” Davenport continued. “I would like to meet with you in my office at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow [Dec. 1] to continue this discussion.”

It was at the Dec. 1 meeting that Currie was informed he had been suspended.  Thursday, UT announced that it had reached a $2.5 million “amicable resolution” with Currie, who had been suspended with pay since that first day of December.

In addition to the previously reported candidates who turned down the Vols, former LSU head coach Les Miles and current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had expressed interest in the opening, messages showed  Additionally, former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who took over as interim head coach after Jones’ firing, sent a text to Currie in which he expressed interest in the full-time job.

And, of course, the text was sent in all-caps.

JOHN I HOPE YOU DO KNOW I WOULD LIKE TO BE YOUR HEAD FOOTBALL COACH I DO KNOW THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AT TENNESSEE!

If that doesn’t perfectly encapsulate Tennessee’s sideshow search for a coach, nothing does.

Running back Deshawn McClease is latest player to leave Hokies

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It has been quite a busy couple of days for Virginia Tech transfer news. Within hours of Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente releasing a statement about the program’s dedication to strengthening the culture of the Virginia Tech football program after a handful of players had decided to leave the program, running back Deshawn McClease added his name to the list of transferring Hokies.

“After discussing with my family, we believe that it is best for me to transfer to another university following graduation this spring,” McClease said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday evening. “I am very eager to continue my football journey and further my education.”

McClease did not say where he is heading next. His departure is another blow to Virginia Tech’s offensive outlook for the 2019 season on a day that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson decide to transfer out of Virginia Tech a day after a couple of other transfer headlines surfaced around the program. As McClease mentioned in his statement, he is scheduled to graduate from Virginia Tech this spring. That will mean he will be eligible to play right away next fall for whatever team he ends up joining. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

McClease was Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher in 2018 and likely would have been the starting running back in Blacksburg for the 2019 season had he decided to stick around. McClease rushed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last fall behind senior starter Steven Peoples.

Oklahoma State QB Keondre Wudtee leaving Stillwater via transfer

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The quarterback competition at Oklahoma State this spring has been reduced by one. Keondre Wudtee is one his way out of Stillwater after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, it was reported on Wednesday.

As noted by Pistols Firing, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders appears to be the most likely candidate to land the starting job at quarterback for the Cowboys in 2019 following the graduation of Taylor Cornelius. Wudtee was the only other quarterback to record any passing stats for Oklahoma State in 2018 in his backup role, completing two of five attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown. A pair of wide receivers, Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, were the only other players to attempt a pass for Oklahoma State in 2018.

Oklahoma State’s quarterback depth chart will still be padded even with the departure of Wudtee. Dru Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma State from Hawaii, is still around and the Cowboys added an early enrollee in three-star Class of 2019 quarterback Brendan Costello. Being enrolled early will allow Costello to get started with spring practices this semester in Stillwater and could potentially have him prepared to step in if needed in the fall.

As for Wudtee, we’ll see where he heads next. He will have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules, of course.

After dustup with Uga, Texas president says Bevo is not leaving the sidelines

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Finally, a story NOT about the transfer portal.

Prior to the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia, somebody decided it would be fun to do a photo with the live animal mascots of the Longhorns and Bulldogs. As Uga made his way over to see Texas mascot Bevo, the longhorn burst out of his caged area and made it known he was not about being a part of a fun photo opp. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report for any people or animals in the incident, but concerns about the handling of Bevo were certainly raised.

And despite pressure from PETA to stop including live animal mascots as part of the gameday experience and any others who may have voiced concerns about the worst-case scenarios involving a live steer, Texas president Gregory Fenves says Bevo will not be retired and forced to watch Longhorns football games from the ranch.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said in a recent interview with the American-Statesman. “He’s an incredible animal and a great symbol for the university. Seriously, we’re always looking at the protocols for Bevo at public events. I don’t think they need to be revised.”

So there you have it. Bevo stays. Sorry, not sorry, PETA. Unless Bevo does decide to enter the transfer portal…

Wisconsin TE Kyle Penniston enters transfer portal

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I have never seen it myself, but the transfer portal must be the place to be. Wisconsin tight end Kyle Penniston is just one of the many players putting his name in the transfer portal, as reported Wednesday, as he begins to look for a new place to finish up his college football career.

First reported by 247 Sports, Penniston will have one year of eligibility left to use for the 2019 season. He will be eligible to play right away this fall as a graduate transfer. Penniston enrolled at Wisconsin in 2015 after accepting an offer from Wisconsin over offers from Oklahoma and a handful of other top programs in the Class of 2015.

Penniston appeared in 13 games for the Badgers in 2018 with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown. The instant rise of Jake Ferguson at the tight end position on his way to becoming the second-leading receiver for Wisconsin meant Penniston likely wasn’t going to play a pivotal role in the offensive gameplan in 2019. Wisconsin should still be in decent shape at the tight end position this fall, not that losing an upper classmen at the position is ever a good situation for a program. It’s worth noting Penniston was recruited under former head coach Gary Andersen, who adopted a different type of offensive scheme that would have potentially been a better fit for Penniston.

Where Penniston goes next remains to be seen.