COLUMBUS, Ohio — Greg Schiano deserved better.
And if Tennessee couldn’t give him what Ohio State feels he has earned, athletic director Gene Smith will be more than happy to have the defensive coordinator stick around and keep contributing to the Buckeyes program.
Ohio State had already done its due diligence into the flimsy, second-hand allegations that were dragged up again after Schiano agreed to take over the Vols on Sunday, sabotaging the potential next step in his career. OSU has seen firsthand what kind of loyal husband, father and friend Schiano is up close. They also know what he brings as a mentor to his players, in addition to what he does putting together a damn-good defensive game plan.
All of that work over the last two years left the Buckeyes expecting Schiano to move on for a job such as the one at Tennessee, and they were behind him completely in that pursuit. And while they’d hate to lose him, now they’re making sure that any other potential suitor knows what it already found out.
“I just feel bad for him,” Smith said. “I’m disappointed that he doesn’t have this opportunity to leave, because I think he has the highest of integrity and character. For us, he’s done nothing but demonstrate great character and great integrity working with our players, highest level of professionalism.
“And obviously he’s been a head coach before. I really think he’s grown even more in our culture and how Urban [Meyer] and we at the university run things. I just think he deserves to have an opportunity to be in that seat, so I was highly disappointed.
“I know that [Tennessee athletic director John Currie] was hopeful that Greg could be his next head coach. Things got out of hand, and I’ve never seen it before in my life. It was unreal. I just feel so bad for Greg and his family, because they really don’t deserve that. The visceral response that occurred — he’s got four kids and a beautiful wife, they don’t deserve that. That’s my pain.”
How much of that pain is being felt by Schiano himself after an absolutely wild 24 hours is unclear, and he still hasn’t made any public statements since it became public that Tennessee was backing away from him.
But he’s had numerous players speak out on his behalf. He’s had previous employers weigh in on the hiring process and the clean background checks and glowing recommendations he’s received, most notably for his work rebuilding Rutgers from the absolute bottom of the college football barrel. And he still undoubtedly has the support of Meyer, who surely didn’t anticipate when his friend signed on with the Buckeyes that he’d get more than a season to work with him — let alone the potential for a third now.
“He’s an elite person, an elite father, an elite husband, an elite football coach,” Meyer said. “I stand by my coach.
“I was just a friend [on Sunday]. I wasn’t a part of any phone calls, but I was part of the conversation with him several times. One thing about coaching, it’s got to be a perfect fit. Maybe it wasn’t. I’m not saying that, but we’ll move on and keep swinging as hard as you can here at a great place.”
Schiano has an invitation to stay as long as he likes, though Ohio State still expects that at some point he’ll be running his own program again elsewhere.
The question now is when that will be, after a fan base highjacked a deal that had already been inked without a clear picture of exactly what Schiano had been accused of in the first place. And for anybody who needs an explanation, Smith is more than willing to share the details of what Ohio State found when it did its own extensive background check.
“Obviously there was the court case and it was an accusation by one person that ultimately was never investigated by the attorney general in Philadelphia,” Smith said. “Greg was never deposed. So there was nothing to substantiate the accusation in any form or fashion. All we could do was — and Urban knew him for a long time, longer than I did — we sat for a long time, we talked with him and I looked him in the eye, straight up. I felt he told me the truth. Then our athletic department attorney met with him, so we grilled him.
“I called people around the business, and that all verified how I felt. Everybody that I have talked to, they talked about how he operated with the highest of integrity. There was nothing he did at Rutgers that had any impropriety around it. We did all we could do. But there wasn’t a whole lot of paperwork or anything like that we could go back and check out. It’s not like we could delve into something, because there was nothing.”
Somehow that was still enough to force a strange U-turn on Schiano’s career path, keeping him at Ohio State waiting for the next call.
It should come eventually, and Smith and Meyer want it to — even at the risk of losing Schiano.
But until it does, the Buckeyes know how he deserves to be treated. And they’re more than willing to do it until another program proves it can.
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