John Currie is out as the Tennessee athletic director after eight months on the job and one chaotic week of a football coaching search, according to media reports.
Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel
John Currie is out as the Tennessee athletic director after eight months on the job and one chaotic week of a football coaching search, according to USA TODAY.
Ryan Robinson, spokesman for UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport, told the Knoxville News Sentinel in a text message that he “can’t comment on anything.”
According to Brett McMurphy, a college football insider formerly of ESPN, the move to fire Currie comes on the heels of a week filled with in-fighting among the powers that be at the University of Tennessee. He pointed to former UT coach Phillip Fulmer as having sabotaged the “search process in hopes to becomes Tennessee’s AD.”
He continued to say Tennessee officials “have been ambushing (John) Currie’s (coaching search). They shoot themselves in the foot, cock the gun & shoot themselves in the other foot. It’s been going on for a week.”
All that led to Friday morning, as Currie was fired less than a year after he returned to Tennessee as the athletic director on April 1. He made his first major move as the athletic director at Tennessee on Nov. 12, when he fired fifth-year football coach Butch Jones and sent the Vols looking for a replacement.
Currie promised “an exhaustive search” that led to bedlam for a week, with the Vols being turned down repeatedly after Currie initially appeared to have a done deal with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Nov. 26.
The backlash to the potential Schiano hire was swift, with fans, state representatives and local business owners loudly speaking out against the hire due to, in part, Schiano’s time at Penn State in the early 1990s when he served as the defensive backs coach on the staff of Jerry Sandusky, a convicted child sexual abuser.
Testimony released in 2016 brought Schiano’s name into the fray, as former Penn State staffer Mike McQueary testified that fellow assistant Tom Bradley told McQueary that Schiano was aware of a child sexual abuse incident by Sandusky, who was Penn State’s defensive coordinator.
Schiano and Bradley denied having knowledge or witnessing any of Sandusky’s abuse.
But with the heavy blow back, the deal fell through before the day was over. Currie issued a statement the following morning in defense of his coaching search, claiming Schiano was “carefully interviewed and vetted.”
Over the following days, Currie and the Vols sought after other candidates, including Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm, but came up empty.
On Wednesday night, Tennessee fans chanted “Fire Currie” during a Vols basketball game.
Chants of “Fire (John) Currie,” Tennessee’s athletic director, shifted Wednesday evening to a UT men’s basketball game against Mercer in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Phil Kaplan / USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
According to a report from ESPN, Currie returned to Knoxville on Friday morning after meeting with Washington State coach Mike Leach on Thursday to interview him for the head coaching vacancy.
Currie’s contract stipulates a buyout that pays $100,000 times the number of months remaining on the term of his deal for firing without cause. His buyout would total $5.5 million with his contract through June 30, 2022, if fired without cause.
He would not receive a buyout if he was fired with cause.
Currie, 46, spent eight years as the athletic director at Kansas State before returning to UT. Currie replaced Dave Hart, who announced his retirement on Aug. 18, 2016, after six years at the university.
Before taking the athletic director job at Kansas State, Currie worked within the UT athletic administration in various capacities, including chief deputy and adviser to then-UT AD Mike Hamilton.
He received his master’s degree from UT in sports management in 2003.