Tennessee’s decision to rescind its agreement with Greg Schiano to be the Volunteers’ new head coach was arguably the craziest story of college football’s offseason. The sport has never seen the kind of uproar from Vols students and fans, along with state politicians, largely fueled by Schiano’s association with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State. (It has to be noted that Schiano was never deemed to be involved in the case from a legal standpoint.)
But among the most surprising developments in the wake of pulling the offer after massive public uproar from Vols students and fans, along with state politicians, were rumblings that the school might actually owe money to Schiano because a contract had been signed. Could Tennessee actually owe a buyout to a coach who never even made it to the sidelines at Neyland Stadium?
As it turns out, Schiano and Tennessee reportedly signed a memorandum of understanding, which Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann explained as “a formal record of the understanding between the coach and the school as to the key terms and conditions under which the university would employ the coach.” McCann went on to explain that Schiano could sue Tennessee for breach of contract, fraud and other charges if such a document had actually been signed. But there was no public record or statement of that taking place.
The Tennessee football program has obviously moved on, quickly interviewing subsequent candidates for its head coaching position (a search that also resulted in the firing of athletic director John Currie and former football coach Philip Fulmer replacing him). On Thursday, the school announced that Jeremy Pruitt, currently the Alabama defensive coordinator, would be its new football coach.
One day later, the lingering question regarding the memorandum of understanding and any possible lawsuit from Schiano has apparently been addressed as well. As reported by WMNL’s Jimmy Hyams, the MOU is invalid according to University of Tennessee bylaws. Only Schiano and Currie signed the MOU (which was for a six-year contract worth approximately $27 million), but school chancellor Beverly Davenport did not. Even if Davenport hadn’t signed the agreement, however, a contract for more than $100,000 must be signed by the university’s chief financial officer or the school president, unless expressly delegated.
Here is the bylaw in question as written:
“All non-delegated contracts must be signed by an officer of the University (as defined in the University Bylaws, Article IV, Section I). Chancellors are only authorized to sign non-delegated contracts related to their campus/institute, and the Chief Financial Officer must also be a signatory on any non-delegated contract signed by a Chancellor.’’
Hyams went on to report that Tennessee has not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for the MOU document. Additionally, Schiano could still pursue legal action if he wants to go that route.
Yet unless he seeks damages, it appears at this point that the Ohio State defensive coordinator won’t receive any compensation for all but officially being the University of Tennessee head football coach for a few hours.