By Alex Norman
Back on March 22nd, Tennessee announced that they had settled with now former athletics director John Currie on a contract buyout. Currie, who had technically been suspended with pay since December 1st, would end up receiving $2.5 million for what amounted to eight months of work.
Currie also oversaw the most insane coaching search in the history of college football.
As part of an open records request, the text messages, direct messages, and emails of Currie and other University of Tennessee athletic personnel and administration officials were made public to multiple media organizations and ended up being placed in a publicly accessible DropBox link.
For days and days Tennessee fans have gone through thousands of pages of documents. The vitriol towards Currie especially was not for the faint of heart. From the moment it became clear on November 26, 2017 that a hiring of Greg Schiano was about to happen, Vols supporters flooded his email inbox and phone text messages.
Right after USA Today’s Dan Wolken broke the news that the Vols were finalizing the Schiano deal that afternoon, Wolken and Currie exchanged text messages. Currie said that he needed some help with the PR, knowing that the reaction would to Schiano would not be positive.
Currie texted, “Our fans are wacko.”
The fact that a sitting athletics director felt the need to tell a member of the college football media that the fans base he served was mentally ill might be the most damning thing that has happened to a fan base that has been through a decade of heartache.
Currie was making a whole lot of money to be the Tennessee AD, and with popular moves like the return of the Lady Vols name change, as well as decisive moves like the firings of the men’s tennis and baseball coaches, Currie was in line for a long tenure as the Vols AD.
But the Schiano hiring was so awful, so single minded, so inept, that his firing was inevitable.
Currie’s comment, whether it was meant in jest or was a truly accurate assessment of how he felt about the people paying his salary, was certainly not the only time he uttered a disparaging word about Vols fans. Or if it was, that’ll certainly go down as the worst luck imaginable.
Keep in mind, Tennessee fans have been through a decade without a division title in football. They hadn’t seen a conference title in men’s basketball since 2008 (they’d finally see one the following March). The baseball program has been a mess since Mike Hamilton fired Rod Delmonico in 2007. The Lady Vols basketball team hasn’t been to a Final Four since 2007.
Heck, if not for the softball program being a perennial College World Series contender, the athletics program wouldn’t have had very much to hang their hat on.
John Currie was chosen over David Blackburn and Phillip Fulmer last year because he had experience running a Power 5 athletics department. But he apparently didn’t learn the most important thing while at Kansas State.
He never learned to listen to his program’s fans. Currie had set up an email portal to get fan feedback, but he must not have ever read those. Otherwise he would have realized how unacceptable the hiring of Greg Schiano truly was.