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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Tennessee athletic director John Currie and Greg Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding to make the Ohio State defensive coordinator the new Volunteers football coach before the deal fell apart amid a public backlash.
The memorandum of understanding, obtained through a public records request, states Schiano would have received a six-year, $27 million contract. Tennessee officials say they believe the document isn't legally binding because it was never signed by the school's chief financial officer.
Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport also didn't sign the document with Schiano.
Currie was suspended and replaced by Phillip Fulmer on Dec. 1, five days after the Schiano deal fell through. Fulmer took over the search at that point and announced the hiring of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt on Thursday.
The memorandum that accompanied Pruitt's hiring included signatures from Pruitt, Davenport, Fulmer and chief financial officer David L. Miller. Pruitt agreed to a six-year deal paying him $3.8 million annually plus other benefits.
Tennessee was seeking a coach to replace Butch Jones , who was fired Nov. 12 after going 34-27 in five seasons. Tennessee went 4-8 this year and set a school record for losses .
Under the terms in the memorandum of understanding, Schiano would have received $4.4 million in 2018. His annual pay would have increased to $4.45 million in 2019, $4.5 million each in 2020 and 2021, $4.55 million in 2022 and $4.6 million in 2023.
When word got out on Nov. 26 that Tennessee had contacted Schiano about its coaching vacancy, fans and state politicians wasted no time venting their frustrations . Four Republican gubernatorial candidates and at least three Tennessee state representatives issued tweets or statements criticizing the school for considering the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach. About 100 people participated in a protest on campus.
They said their complaints stemmed from Schiano's background as an assistant at Penn State during Jerry Sandusky's tenure as the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator. Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse.
Court documents released last year of a deposition in a case related to the Sandusky scandal included hearsay testimony suggesting Schiano might have been aware of Sandusky's sexual abuse against children, though Schiano has said he never saw abuse or had any reason to suspect it while working at Penn State. The prosecutors involved in the case didn't investigate the Schiano's comments.
One day after the Schiano deal fell through, Currie released a statement saying that Tennessee had "carefully interviewed and vetted" him and that the Ohio State assistant "received the highest recommendations."
Currie said in his statement that Tennessee officials conferred with Ohio State officials who conducted their own investigation after the 2016 document release.
Currie said Schiano wasn't mentioned in the 2012 report on the Sandusky scandal led by former FBI director Louis Freeh and "was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation." Davenport issued a statement that day saying, "I deeply regret the events of (Nov. 26) for everyone involved."
Davenport hasn't specified why she removed Currie and has said it was due to a "series of events" rather than a single tipping point.
Tennessee is investigating whether it can fire Currie for cause, in which case the school wouldn't owe him any money. The buyout terms in Currie's contract indicate he'd be owed $5.5 million if he got fired without cause.
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