WIEDMER: Ex Penn State assistant Greg Schiano latest victim of vigilante social media

Chattanooga Times/Free Press (TNS)
  • Greg Schiano was once an assistant football coach at Penn State.
  • Schiano allegedly was aware of Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse, a charge that Schiano denies.
  • Schiano is an assistant at Ohio State and was reportedly in line to become Tennessee's head coach.
  • The Tennessee job offer disappeared after a storm of protests, mostly on social media.

My sister calls it a vigilante society, this growing impact those who post on social media can have on any issue, big or small.

That observation seems particularly insightful as my computer clock reads 8:04 Sunday evening and the once all-but-certain hiring of Greg Schiano as the next University of Tennessee football coach has come to an end before it began, at least partially blown apart by the overwhelming negativity directed at its probability via social media.

FILE- This Sept. 30, 2017 file photo shows former Rutgers football head coach, now Ohio State associate head coach/defensive coordinator Greg Schiano running onto the field before an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.

This isn't to blast the tweeters and texters and Facebook posters — even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders weighed in on her Facebook page — for their anger, concern and venom over a hire they deemed as anything but in the best interest of UT football.

They're adults. They have opinions. Social media gives them a platform to voice those opinions. Yippeeeee!

And one must wonder why it took those opinions to apparently bring a swift end to Schiano's candidacy as the coach to replace the recently fired Butch Jones.

Was Schiano really the biggest, best guy out there that first-year UT athletic director John Currie could find to turn around Big Orange football? A guy who has never set foot in the Southeastern Conference? A guy who hasn't been a college head coach anywhere since exiting Rutgers in 2011? A guy who got fired after two seasons in the NFL, then took two years off before becoming the defensive coordinator at The Ohio State University?

Penn State allegations: And we haven't even gotten to the really unsettling stuff in Schiano's past, the stuff that seemed to anger the largest collection of Big Orange fans, the stuff that relates to the Penn State child sex abuse scandal and former Nittany Lions assistant Mike McQueary's testimony that Schiano reportedly was aware of fellow assistant Jerry Sandusky's deplorable acts but kept quiet, though Schiano has always denied it.

Right or wrong, fair or not, when that rock the UT students like to paint messages on displayed the following words Sunday afternoon — "Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State" — Currie had a problem he should have seen coming before he reached out to the New Jersey native.

Now, because of that stunning error in judgement, there are already whispers from people in power and posts from people who believe that social media gives them power that this entire episode could ultimately cost Currie far more than lost respect. It could, though doubtful, cost him his job.

Or as longtime Vols observer Clay Travis posted: "Hey John Currie. If you are hiring Greg Schiano, do us all a favor and resign at the press conference. Absolute disgrace."

When you make yourself a committee of one, when you eschew the cover of a search committee, go dark in terms of keeping the public apprised of your activities (not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that), and all that secrecy blows up in your face, the cost can be as high as your own warped view of your skill set. Especially when your committee of one becomes an unwelcome committee of thousands.

"This search will be my sole focus," Currie said on Nov. 12, the day Jones was axed. "Naturally, there will be great interest and speculation across the college football world."

Negativity dogs Tennessee: Now there is great interest and speculation of a negative kind, which has dogged Tennessee football for too long, seemingly unabated since the school elected to fire Phillip Fulmer at the close of the 2008 season. Since then the school has hired three coaches, fired two and never returned to the SEC title game it reached the year before Fulmer was fired.

Now this, the fans driving the hiring process more than anyone ever thought possible.

Merely consider this statement from Tennessee House of Representatives member Jeremy Faison: "The head football coach at the University of Tennessee is the highest-paid state employee. They're the face of our state. We don't need a man who has that type of potential reproach in their life (the Penn State scandal) as the highest-paid state employee. It's egregious to the people and it's wrong to the taxpayers."

But could it have worked? Was Currie completely off base? Or did he simply wildly underestimate how angry the general public remains over the Penn State scandal, which needlessly subjected a number of young boys to sexual abuse because of the unforgivable silence of adults who should have known better?

Schiano gets support: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu didn't know Schiano during his early coaching days at Penn State, but he knew him quite well during his time at Rutgers, where Sanu became a Scarlet Knights star.

"He's a phenomenal coach," Sanu noted after the Falcons' 34-20 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday in Atlanta. "He's a builder. He knows how to build a program the right way. He brings in high-character guys. He teaches them how to win. Coach Schiano will make Tennessee a winner."

Correction: He might have made them a winner. All we know now is that whomever Currie hires wasn't his first choice.

Social media can have a greater impact than we ever imagined.

Which brings us back to Currie, who said on Nov. 12, "During this time of transition, I am heartened by the ongoing passion of Big Orange fans worldwide."

Just a guess, but that Big Orange passion is probably causing Currie a serious case of heartburn today.