Tennessee's coaching search was even wilder than you thought

Tennessee on Thursday announced a $2.5 million separation agreement with former athletic director John Currie. But that's not all.

The school also pulled back the curtain on one of the wildest and most dysfunctional coaching searches in college football history. Tennessee released thousands of pages of correspondence surrounding its football coach search between university leaders, coaching agents and Vols fans, who played a much bigger role than most fan bases during the search process. The document dump includes phone records, emails and text messages, especially during the final week of November, which began with an agreement to name Greg Schiano as Tennessee's next coach and ended with Currie out of a job.

Here are some of the, uh, highlights from a week Tennessee folks will never forget, as much as they'd like to.

The Greg Schiano backlash

On the afternoon of Nov. 26, news broke that Tennessee and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano had reached an agreement for Schiano to become the next coach. Texts and emails streamed in to Currie.

"I will never buy ticket to UT again if we hire Greg."

"Don't do it."

"It is program suicide. Absolutely horrible. Do. Not. Hire. Him."

"If you hire Schiano, I'm out. We're all out. You're killing this program if you do that."

"If you hire Schiano, I'm out. We're all out. You're killing this program if you do that." Email from Tennessee fan to then-AD John Currie

One person texted Currie "Your [sic] trash" for eight minutes straight before changing the message to "You're garbage."

Another texter chimed in moments later with repeated texts of "I'll never attend another Vol game."

There were a few congratulatory texts. One read: "Mr. Currie, incredible hire! Schiano will bring Vol football back to the top! #GBO." Another read: "Hey, just wanted to say you're doing a great job at Tennessee! I don't care what anyone says!"

But it was mostly a digital barrage. Currie changed his phone the next morning.

The emails weren't much kinder. Many brought up Schiano's connection to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, which has never been substantiated but sparked strong reaction.



-- every TN Vol fan

One email to Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport and Currie began: "Dear Dumb and Dumber -- I'm sure you don't but do either one of you realize what an embarrassment you both are to this great university?" Another addressed Davenport as "Aunt Beverly," demanded she fire Currie and also that she return to Cincinnati, her previous stop as a university president. One email to Currie told him he "wouldn't last as long as Bama Dave," presumably a reference to former Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, an Alabama alum. The same person wrote back hours later, telling Currie he was "already worse than yankee dave."

A Nov. 29 email to Davenport called Currie "A GYM TEACHER WITH A TIE ON" and said that the Schiano situation would cost Tennessee millions.

Currie received a few supportive emails, including one from Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams, who wrote: "Hang in there my friend. If I can assist in any way even just talking let me know. Sun will come up each and every morning."

One fan took a more compassionate tone with Currie, beginning his note with, "I can't imagine the stress and pressure you must be dealing with." The fan called Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin "unrealistic" choices, but also said NC State coach Dave Doeren would trigger "another meltdown" from the fans. The person then pushed for USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

Politicians chimed in, including state senator Ken Yager, who wrote Davenport and Currie on Nov. 27: "A public relations disaster has blown up and is not abated by AD Currie's statement earlier this afternoon. The program and the reputation of the University will be damaged."

Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, then working as a special adviser to university president Joe DiPietro, received several emails from Vols fans in late November, urging him to take over and remedy the mess they believed Currie created. Responding to one on Nov. 27, Fulmer wrote: "It is a really tough time for our school again. We have a very special place that deserves better than what we have gone thru."

One emailer wrote Fulmer on Nov. 28, volunteering to "administer a grass roots effort to draft you as Athletic Director. It's not necessarily about firing Currie, but of course -- that has to happen. It's more about restoring the passion and integrity of True VFLs to the core leadership positions of our Alma Mater. It is time to act. The timing is right!" On Nov. 28, a Vols fan named James emailed Davenport and DiPietro, calling for Currie's ouster and for Fulmer to be named athletic director.

"Go get Kiffin and stop this madness!!! Enough already." Email pleading with then-Tennessee AD John Currie to hire Lane Kiffin

"This coaching search and rejection makes us look more desperate and more pathetic with each rejection."

The fan signed the email: "An orange bleedin', Rocky Top singin' Vol fan for life!"

Love for Les and Lane

After the Schiano agreement fell through, Tennessee fans began stumping for other candidates. Not surprisingly, many mentioned Tee Martin, who quarterbacked Tennessee to a national championship in 1998. Former LSU coach Les Miles, who openly campaigned for the job, also became a popular choice for a segment of fans.

One musically inclined fan even wrote an email to Currie pushing for Miles, to the tune of Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge."

An excerpt:

I spent last night wanting a coach from Louisiana
And though I'm out on the highway, my thoughts are still on him
Such a strange combination of a man and a child
Such a strange situation asking for Les Miles
Callin' Baton Rouge

Somewhat surprisingly, Gruden's name didn't come up often in emails to Currie and Davenport.

One person who did want to check in on the #Grumors was former Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who asked the AD about the current Raiders coach. "Geesh, you too?" Currie responded.

And Tennessee's interim coach, Brady Hoke, made an all-caps plea via email to get the job permanently:


But the one name that gained the most traction in the middle of the week was the same name Tennessee fans cursed when he jilted the program for USC in January 2010: Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin, who spent just one season as Vols coach, had seemingly gained forgiveness from a portion of the Tennessee fan base after his success with Alabama and in his first season at Florida Atlantic.

"A public relations disaster has blown up and is not abated by AD Currie's statement earlier this afternoon. The program and the reputation of the University will be damaged." State Senator Ken Yager

"Mr. Currie we as vol fans appreciate you trying to right a wrong and we are all ready to forgive this guy we want him on rocky top please give this a shot," one emailer wrote, posting a picture of Kiffin in a Tennessee pullover.

"I still support you and realize this was not how you wanted this search to go. With that said, as a fan of over 30 years I would hope maybe you and the [Board of Trustees] could forgive if not forget and reach out to Lane Kiffin. I know I know. However at this point I think it warrants a discussion."

"Contact Kiffin now!!!!!! Save your job. He's really your only shot keeping the fan base from completely turning on you."

"Go get Kiffin and stop this madness!!! Enough already."

"Lane Kiffin is OPTION A. It's obvious. You can leverage the contract. He's grown up. DO THIS!!!!!"

"Dear Mr. Currie, I know things haven't gone as planned, but if you bring Lane Kiffin home all will be forgiven!"

Vols fans deny Dave Doeren and Mike Leach

As Tennessee appeared to close in on a deal with NC State coach Dave Doeren, the email criticism again ramped up. One fan said he would cancel his season tickets as there "will be zero support for a coach like Dave Doeren."

Another wrote: "Looks like a Butch Jones clone. Seriously, go after Tee Martin."

The school's brief pursuit of Leach didn't sit well either. One fan emailed Currie, Davenport, DiPietro and Fulmer, noting "Leach would be horrible in Knoxville and we would settle for mediocrity."

Pruitt's name surfaces

Although most Tennessee fans suggested current or former college head coaches for the school's vacancy, a few seemingly could see into the future.

In the early hours of Nov. 28, Currie received an email: "please try to hire Jeremy Pruitt this is the kinda coach I believe vol fans can stand behind please make it happy thank you."

Two days later, more support for the then-Alabama defensive coordinator: "He has 3 national championships to his name. If anyone can figure out how to beat Alabama it would be Coach Pruitt. ... This hire would calm down the current raging fans and immediately restore your credibility. Please do not hire Doeren."

The airplane Wi-Fi mishap

Business travelers know the feeling. You get on a plane for a lengthy flight, needing to remain connected, and the supposedly reliable (and often ridiculously expensive) Wi-Fi won't work. That's apparently what happened to Currie on Nov. 30 as he boarded a Delta flight from Raleigh to Los Angeles to meet with Washington State coach Mike Leach. Negotiations with Doeren had stalled, and Currie wanted to close in on another candidate.

The documents show Davenport, executive associate athletic director Reid Sigmon and others tried to reach Currie during the flight.

Sigmon texted: "Please call as soon as possible. Urgent."

In an email to Currie later that afternoon, Davenport wrote: "This morning we tried for six hours to contact you about the state of the search. After finally connecting, you informed me you were in California heading into a meeting with Mike Leach. This was the first I had heard of this meeting. Because of the confusion earlier in the day with the other candidate [Doeren], I asked you not to pursue any discussions about employment with any potential candidates."

She then requested a meeting the following morning, Dec. 1, in her office in Knoxville.

Currie wrote back, apologizing for the "stress I caused by the Wifi outage." He then explained that since no deal was in place with Doeren, social media negativity mounting and Doeren reportedly negotiating a new contract with NC State, he needed to gauge Leach's interest.

"Although I have not offered the job or discussed terms with him, he told me he would take the job if offered. ... He would make an excellent choice."

Currie is out

After Davenport and Currie met on the morning of Dec. 1, the school announced that Currie was out as athletic director and Fulmer would step in as acting AD.

Currie received many voicemails and texts on his new phone expressing sorrow, including several from Tennessee coaches and athletic department staffers.