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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.

WVU wideout Dillon Spalding transfers to James Madison, will play against old team in Week 1

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In the NFL, you’ll often see teams sign a player who was just cut off another team the week or two before they wind up playing that opponent. We could sort of have a college football version of that scenario in the case of wide receiver Dillon Spalding.

The former West Virginia redshirt freshman announced on Twitter that he had committed to James Madison and would be transferring to join the team in 2019. The team’s opponent in Week 1? None other than the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

Of course any knowledge Spalding might bring with him is limited given that both JMU and WVU have new coaching staffs in place this year. The former three-star recruit is moving a little closer to his Lorton, Va. hometown and will have all four years of eligibility remaining between redshirting last season due to an injury and the drop down to the FCS level.

The Dukes have added a solid amount of FBS talent recently for new coach Curt Cignetti. In addition to Spalding, former Penn State wide receiver Brandon Polk joined the program this offseason and both will catch passes from ex-Pitt QB Ben DiNucci.

Wildcats see attendance spike after allowing beer and wine sales at Arizona Stadium in 2018

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Arizona posted a disappointing 5-7 campaign in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson but Arizona fans still came out and enjoyed themselves thanks, in part, to the school allowing beer and alcohol sales for the first time.

As the Arizona Daily Star reports, attendance for the Wildcats home football games actually ticked up last year an average of 2,804 people while incidents of ejections at the stadium did the same — though were below historic averages.

“We’ve been very pleased with the rollout across the board in Arizona Stadium and McKale,” athletic director Dave Heeke said. “This was really focused around a number of things that we’ve done in the area of fan amenities and food service, and beverage selection was a key component.”

Some 43 people were kicked out of seven home games at UA, which is double the 21 from 2017 but well below the numbers the school reported for seasons when they played in-state rival Arizona State. It seems that Territorial Cup contest was the biggest indicator of above-average ejections in a year though game-by-game data was not given.

“I really haven’t noticed an increase in any type of criminal behavior due to beer and wine sales,” UAPD spokesman Sgt. Sean Shields told the paper. “Obviously from year to year the ejections and different numbers change and they fluctuate, but it’s very hard to pinpoint the reason why those happen.”

The amount of revenue generated by beer and alcohol sales wasn’t detailed by the school but Heeke noted it covered the additional costs on game days and the profit overall wasn’t hugely significant. Still, it seems the atmosphere at Arizona Stadium was still enough to lure fans into their seats despite plenty of late starts and a football team that was largely up-and-down in 2018.

Ex-FAU defensive coordinator Tony Pecoraro joins Kansas staff in off-the-field role

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Not many people can say they worked for the very different styles of head coaches Lane Kiffin and Les Miles back-to-back but Tony Pecoraro certainly can.

The recently let go Florida Atlantic defensive coordinator has apparently landed a new gig in Lawrence as a senior defensive analyst, primarily serving under Jayhawks DC D.J. Eliott.

Pecoraro took over the Owls defense in 2018 after spending the previous two seasons running things on that side of the ball for Southern Miss. Things didn’t quite work out in Boca however as FAU couldn’t get off the field like they did in Kiffin’s first year and allowed 31.8 points per game.

The veteran coordinator, who has Power Five assistant experience from a stint at Florida State, was replaced at FAU by longtime Oklahoma State DC Glenn Spencer back in December.

Wisconsin unlikely to join trend of selling beer and alcohol at football games anytime soon

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Wisconsin fans are known to hold more than their own when it comes to enjoying an adult beverage or two before, during and after Badgers football games but they apparently will have to keep waiting for the opportunity to buy a cold one at Camp Randall on game days.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, a decision on whether or not to allow beer/alcohol sales in the general seating sections of the stadium rests with school chancellor Rebecca Blank and that she is not inclined to change the status quo on such prohibition anytime soon.

“The university believes that there is already an atmosphere of energy and excitement around Badger game days,” a school statement to the paper read. “The addition of alcohol to general seating areas isn’t needed to improve that experience and could detract from it for our students and fans.”

Just in the last two months, Indiana, Rutgers and Illinois have turned on the taps for football games in 2019. That will result in fully half of Big Ten schools allowing such sales in general seating areas as a result this season and it’s turned into yet another lucrative revenue stream for those that have too.

Wisconsin appears resistant to the idea however, doing so in the face of declining attendance for games too. While it is certainly too early to remark ‘never say never’ when it comes to the Badgers, it’s pretty clear this trend isn’t making its way to Madison anytime soon.