- Marcus Hartman
The dangerous power of social media has rarely been on bigger display than it was Sunday when Greg Schiano’s hiring as Tennessee football coach was scuttled by an angry social media mob.
In case you missed it, a bunch of misinformed people (including politicians and media members) got a guy fired before he could really be hired because of an unsubstantiated testimony about second-hand information received many years ago.
RELATED: 5 things to know about Greg Schiano
What did the current Ohio State defensive coordinator know about Jerry Sandusky when they were at Penn State in the early 1990s?
Only Schiano knows, but the accusations against him are extremely questionable.
A society that convicts people without a trial -- or really any compelling evidence -- is not something we want to become.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here is nationally respected columnist Dan Wetzel, who closely covered the Sandusky sexual abuse case.
The Schiano story never came up in any of the hundreds and hundreds of pages of interviews that have been made public or during any public testimony in any of those cases.
The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office was extremely aggressive in pursuing leads and going after anyone it believed covered up for Sandusky. It spent years building and then prosecuting a case that was based on the allegation that people in power at Penn State participated in a “conspiracy of silence.”
It’s very difficult to imagine how that same attorney general’s office, if it heard about this and believed it was even remotely provable or accurate, would not go after Schiano and especially Bradley, who worked at Penn State from 1979-2012 and was arguably Paterno’s most trusted lieutenant. Yet even after this emerged in 2016, the AG’s office did not pursue it as far as anyone knows. Likewise, Penn State conducted its own lengthy and exhaustive investigation, run by former FBI director Louis Freeh, and the Schiano story never emerged.
One of my favorite games on Twitter is to decide who is being disingenuous and who is legitimately dumb when controversies like this start to roil.
For sure there is no shortage of stupidity out there, but I tend to think it’s more of the former in this case.
Let’s be clear about what happened here: Delusional Tennessee fans who don’t understand their program’s current place in the college football hierarchy committed a character assassination of Schiano because they think they’re too good for a guy who was only a game over .500 at Rutgers.
Except being only a game over .500 at Rutgers is a minor miracle considering the Scarlet Knights were a glorified high school program when Schiano took over there in 2001.
Aside from pretending to host the first college football game (it was soccer), Rutgers has basically zero football tradition.
They’re way behind in facilities, and the Scarlet Knights are generally reputed to be an after-thought in their own backyard.
Greg Schiano could fool Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany into thinking they should be part of the Big Ten, but a Twitter mob decided he shouldn’t be associated with Tennessee and latched on to whatever negative nugget they could find about him to prevent it from happening.
In the meantime, I’m sure they convinced a bunch of people who otherwise had no knowledge of the situation Schiano is a terrible person.
Shame on the people who made it happen, and shame on the Tennessee administration for giving in, setting a terrible precedent in the process.
Of course, college football fans being delusional is nothing new. See the current mess at Nebraska for an example (if the Cornhuskers land Scott Frost, they have a chance to become relevant and likable again).
They couldn’t stand winning only nine games a year under Bo Pelini without realizing nine wins per year is probably the new ceiling for a program with very little recruiting base and a much more competitive college football landscape than 20 years ago. That was bad enough, but obviously hiring a worse coach to replace him exacerbated the situation.
Schiano’s not perfect, but few coaching candidates are. Even Urban Meyer and Nick Saban brought some baggage with them when they arrived at Ohio State and Alabama, for what that’s worth.
He has experience building a program and recruiting ties throughout the east, Midwest and Florida.
I suspect his high-profile failure in the NFL as coach of the Buccaneers taught him a few things, too.
And yet it’s hard to believe any potential candidate is bad enough to railroad him like Tennessee fans did Sunday.
Who knows what damage has been done to Schiano’s reputation?
If it’s any consolation to outsiders with common sense, Tennessee is unlikely to land a reputable candidate now given that they folded so quickly in the face of a made-up controversy.
The Volunteers likely have earned many more years in CFB purgatory.
Perhaps they can bring home Tee Martin, a national championship quarterback at UT during that window when Alabama was down and the rest of the SEC was nothing special aside from Florida and Georgia (sort of), but Martin might be smart enough to realize the difference between the expectations in Knoxville and the program’s real ceiling and decide to wait for a better opportunity.
He brings some upside but also risk considering his lack of experience as a head coach.
That’s beside the point, though.
This social media lynch mob that got Greg Schiano could be a harbinger of things to come.
If you’ve paid any attention to the complete disaster Political Twitter is, you have to acknowledge that.
I fear it is too late. We may have reached a point of no return.
Anything can be proven now in the court of social media if given the time.
Hopefully, I’m wrong.
Maybe just as people united to destroy Schiano, we can find common ground in trying to avoid such situations repeating.
I’m not holding my breath.