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Greg Schiano consumed by firestorm in Knoxville

By Martin Fennelly
Published: November 27, 2017 Updated: November 27, 2017 at 11:58 AM
Tennessee fan Jake McCallister chants during a gathering of Tennessee fans reacting to the possibility of hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano for its head coaching vacancy Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn. [Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP]

Jerry Sandusky is a monster who will spend the rest of his life behind walls.

And then there is former Bucs coach Greg Schiano. How will he spend his days after being consumed by the firestorm that began when the University of Tennessee tried to hire him as its head football coach?

Tennessee backed away from Schiano amid outcry and open protest, especially on social media, a steamroller partly fueled by Schiano allegedly  having knowledge of Sandusky abusing children at Penn State, where Schiano worked in the 1990s.

The question now is whether Schiano, 51, can ever again be a head coach. Or even keep his job at Ohio State as Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator.

I spoke with Schiano last January, before Ohio State played Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal. It was a pleasant conversation. Schiano was relaxed. He smiled as he discussed his failed stint in Tampa Bay.

I thought he was a disaster as Bucs head coach.

But I never thought he was a monster.

My conversation with Schiano last January came six months after the 2016 release of legal documents in a 2015 civil-suit deposition by Mike McQueary, the star witness in the Sandusky case and other cases. In that 2015 deposition, McQueary said he was told by longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley that Schiano, more than 20 years ago, told Bradley he'd witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a child.

Schiano denied McQueary's account and that he knew about any abuse. I thought if Schiano had been guilty, if there had been any kind of proof, his alleged years-ago comment would have been investigated and he would have been prosecuted in the cover-up, or at least sued by Sandusky's victims. None of those things happened. I didn't ask Schiano about the McQueary deposition when I spoke to him in Arizona. I should have.

Only Greg Schiano knows what he knows. And we'll never know how many Tennessee fans were outraged over his alleged past at Penn State and how many were outraged that Schiano wasn't a good enough coach after their school tried to land Jon Gruden.

None of it seems fair.

Mike McQueary, who did the right thing, has struggled to find work.

Jerry Sandusky's victims live with his crimes each and every day.

What does fairness look like, anyway?