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Knoxville, Tenn. — Tennessee athletic director John Currie is defending the process of his coaching search and vouching for the character of Greg Schiano one day after negotiations between the two parties broke down amid a public backlash.

Currie issued a statement Monday acknowledging the Ohio State defensive coordinator was a leading candidate for the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy without explaining why the two sides parted ways.

“Among the most respected professional and college football coaches, he is widely regarded as an outstanding leader who develops tough, competitive teams and cares deeply about his student-athletes,” Currie said.

Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport also issued a statement offering her support to Currie while acknowledging her regret over the handling of the Schiano situation.

“I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved,” Davenport said. “The university remains steadfast in its commitment to excellence, and I look forward to John Currie continuing the search to bring the next head football coach to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.”

The school and Schiano were close to an agreement Sunday before the deal fell apart after a protest on campus and complaints on social media from fans, state representatives and gubernatorial candidates.

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 suggested 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.

Currie said Tennessee “carefully interviewed and vetted” Schiano and the former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach “received the highest recommendations.”

The athletic director 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.” Currie also said Tennessee officials confirmed that Schiano was never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter.

In his statement, Currie said Tennessee officials conferred with Ohio State officials who conducted their own investigation after the 2016 document release.

“I know that Coach Schiano will continue to have great success in his coaching career and wish him and his family well,” Currie said.

FISHER UPDATE

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher continued to provide “no comment” when pressed with questions about reportedly being offered the Texas A&M job as his Seminoles prepare to end their disappointing 5-6 season against Louisiana Monroe this Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

A Houston TV sports director reported Sunday Texas A&M extended an offer to Fisher. A salary figure was not confirmed, but ESPN reported the Aggies planned to pursue Fisher with a “lucrative offer.”

“I’m not going to speak about jobs right now,” Fisher said when asked to provide a message for the FSU fan base.

When asked about a message he’d give his players amid the rumors, Fisher said “we’re playing, control what we can play, we’re getting ready to play this week against ULM and I’m being here coaching you right now. So let’s go. We’re going to be ready to play.”

This is the third consecutive season Fisher has been linked to an open position in the Southeastern Conference, with the coach negotiating contract extensions during each of the past two seasons.

Fisher is the sixth highest paid coach in the country this season, making $5.7 million, but he is the lowest paid coach of the four active coaches to win a national championship behind Alabama’s Nick Saban ($11.1 million), Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($8.5 million) and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6.4 million).

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh ($7 million) and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez ($6 million) also make more than Fisher, who led the Seminoles to a national championship in 2013.

EXTRA POINTS

Rice coach David Bailiff has been fired, two days after the Owls finished the season 1-11. Bailiff went 57-80 with four bowl appearances in 11 seasons at Rice.

... Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and the Cyclones have agreed to a new six-year deal worth $22.5 million, increasing Campbell’s annual compensation from $2.1 million to $3.5 million per year.

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