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What’s going on in Tennessee right now could be a case study in the danger of online mobs and the “By any means necessary” methodology.
In case you missed it, the Tennessee Volunteers were all set to hire current Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator and former University of Rutgers and Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano.
Word of Schiano’s impending hiring spread on social media and a tremendous backlash ensued, spurred on by Clay Travis.
If you are unfamiliar with Clay Travis, he’s a sports talk host and writer based out of Nashville who has become increasingly popular over the past few years due to his willingness to speak his mind and take positions that are often unpopular among sports media.
As a result, he has developed a large and loyal following, and he brought the full weight of that down on Schiano to torpedo the former Rutgers coach’s candidacy.
In doing so, Travis pointed to the questionable job he had done as a head coach in the past, but unfortunately, he didn’t stop there.
Travis dug up old rumors that Schiano had witnessed some of the Jerry Sandusy era hijinks at Penn State and said nothing about it.
Former Penn State coach Mike McQueary - who was a whistleblower in the PSU case – was the source of these rumors, as he claimed in a deposition that another assistant coach – Tom Bradley - had told him Schiano witnessed Sandusky abusing a child.
For whatever it is worth, both Schiano and Bradley denied this and nothing ever came of it.
But that was all the Tennessee mob needed to pounce on Schiano and relentlessly hammer away until they made his hiring nearly impossible, forcing the University to pull the plug.
Before I continue, let me make a few things clear: I generally enjoy Clay Travis as I find him to be both intelligent and interesting. He doesn’t just regurgitate the same talking points you hear from most sports pundits, and I consider his show and writing a breath of fresh air.
I also fully understand why Travis and the rest of the Tennessee fanbase did not want Greg Schiano to be the next coach of the Volunteers. He was an utter failure with Tampa Bay and has a terrible reputation, both of which kept him from being employed at all until Urban Meyer hired him last year as defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
All of that said, Travis and the Tennessee mob he led took this entirely too far. If they had stuck to complaining about Schiano’s credentials and reputation, that would have been fine.
But to tar and feather the man over uncorroborated hearsay is completely beyond the pale.
The authorities in the Penn State case, Ohio State, and Tampa Bay all vetted Schiano and found nothing worth jettisoning him over.
Fox Sports college football analyst actually summed this whole situation up best when he essentially said that Volunteers fans had reasonable concerns about Schiano, but resorted to unreasonable means to stop him from becoming the team’s coach.
In their minds, maybe it was worth it.
But in order to make that calculation, you have to convince yourself that it was ok to completely ruin a man’s life and publicly drag him through the mud to accomplish your goal.
You may say to yourself, “So what? Who cares about Greg Schiano. He’s a rich football coach and he will be just fine.”
But the danger here is that if this kind of behavior gets normalized, you are essentially giving the mob the power to destroy people for sport.
This time it was Schiano.
Next time? Who knows.
But the more important question is where does this all end?
And we should all be afraid of the answer to that question, because it may very well be that it never ends at all.