Clay Travis Leads a Social Media Uprising Against Greg Schiano

Photo Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

For a brief moment on Sunday, it appeared as if the University of Tennessee would hire Greg Schiano as its next football coach. When word of the impending decision filtered into the social media universe, a virtual firestorm erupted, the flames of which were extinguished only when the university walked away from the deal.

The brightest torch in the cyber mob that gathered to oppose Schiano belonged to Clay Travis, a sports personality who has built himself a sizable platform catering to SEC country. Travis is a Tennessee native who, when he’s not busy believing in “the First Amendment and boobs,” takes an avid interest in Volunteer football.

If you’re not familiar with Travis, think of a less talented version of Bill Simmons when the Sports Guy was still churning out regular copy. Travis has essentially appropriated Simmons’ shtick, but tailored it to his own audience. Though he’s not the best writer, Travis plays the role of contrarian very well. The Vanderbilt-trained lawyer is particularly adept at framing arguments and advocating them in a persuasive way.

Case in point: Travis’ long-running feud with ESPN. Travis has written several articles on his website, Outkick the Coverage, documenting ESPN’s hemorrhaging of subscribers and subsequent ratings decline. He’s linked the downward trends to the network’s perceived censorship of conservative voices and concession to political correctness. To buttress his narrative, Travis has contrasted ESPN’s treatment of Donald Trump critic Jemele Hill with the firing of Curt Schilling and suspension of Linda Cohn. He also broke the news of ESPN’s ridiculous decision to remove announcer Robert Lee from play-by-play duties for a University of Virginia football game after the protests in Charlottesville over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Travis’ cogent explanations for the struggles of ESPN fail to acknowledge that the primary culprit of the network’s financial woes is not rooted in political ideology but economic reality: Americans have engaged in widespread cord-cutting as cable bills have gotten more expensive and cheaper alternatives have become more available.

But Travis isn’t interested in the truth, per se; he wants to sell a version of reality which appeals to an audience that increasingly feels alienated and silenced. Perhaps it’s accurate to call Travis a “darling of the alt right,” as Politico did in a recent profile; however, such labeling allows Travis’ detractors to marginalize him without engaging him and his valid critiques about the pervasiveness of liberalism in the sports media world.

With this context in mind, consider the attack that Travis initiated when Schiano was poised to accept Tennessee’s offer. Travis decided that the Ohio State Buckeyes defensive coordinator wasn’t worthy of the august position of head football coach at UT. Like any good litigator would do, after forming his conclusion Travis looked for facts to support it.

He writes:

“We’re talking about a guy with a losing record in college football at Rutgers who got fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and just vanished from coaching until Urban Meyer decided to hire him as defensive coordinator.  The most memorable thing he’s done with the Buckeyes so far is hit a bicyclist on campus.”

Not only is Schiano a mediocre football coach. In Travis’ estimation, he’s also an enabler of child abuse:

Before we wade into the Penn State accusations, let’s first tackle Schiano’s coaching credentials. Indeed, Schiano finished his Rutgers tenure with a less than impressive 68-67 record. However, context matters. Schiano inherited a moribund program that shared the Big East basement with Temple until the Owls were exiled from the conference. During his eleven-year run at the school, Schiano rebuilt the program into an occasional national power that was attractive enough to secure an invitation from the Big Ten during the most recent round of conference reshuffling. He recruited Florida well, which put him ahead of the curve among rival programs in the Northeast region. The high point of his stay in New Jersey was undoubtedly Rutgers’ upset win over Bobby Petrino and the #3 ranked Louisville Cardinals.

Schiano was so successful at Rutgers that at various points he was the subject of overtures from Michigan and the University of Miami. He only left Piscataway when the NFL came calling.

There’s no sugarcoating Schiano’s experience as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His domineering, hard-charging act wore thin quickly in the professional ranks. Within two seasons, he was deservedly dismissed.

Nonetheless, Schiano’s professional trajectory is a perfect example of the ways in which narratives distort perspective. Ten years ago, Schiano would have been a welcome choice in Knoxville. In the intervening decade, did he forget how to coach? Of course not. Schiano’s coaching acumen didn’t change. Fans’ perception of Schiano’s coaching ability shifted.

And that brings us to the more sensitive portion of the Greg Schiano resume, which is the accusation that he was part of the conspiracy of silence at Penn State that provided a safe haven for Jerry Sandusky. Clearly, the allegation resonated on Tennessee’s campus:

State politicians even weighed in on the matter:

When analyzing the claims surrounding Schiano, it becomes clear that “Tennessee standards” do not include space for due process. For a basic understanding of Schiano’s alleged involvement in the Penn State scandal, read this article from Philly.com and this Washington Post story. Basically, former Penn State assistant-turned-whistleblower Mike McQueary named Schiano when asked if he knew of any other assistants who were aware of Sandusky’s predatory behavior. In his testimony, McQueary related an exchange he had with former PSU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Bradley had allegedly told McQueary of a time when Schiano confided in Bradley after witnessing Sandusky engaged in unspecified inappropriate behavior. Both Schiano and Bradley denied any knowledge of Sandusky’s criminal activities.

In the court of public opinion, it apparently does not matter. On the strength of a deposition provided by McQueary for an insurance company seeking to extricate itself from financial liability for Penn State’s payouts to Sandusky’s victims, Schiano has been deemed an accessory to the crime. His denial does not matter. His inability to question his accuser does not matter. And the context in which the testimony was offered, as well as the hearsay nature of the claim, most assuredly does not matter.

Imagine if one of your former employers was embroiled in a massive scandal. What if the eventual whistleblower, who worked for the business years after you left, referenced your name in a deposition and you had no way to defend yourself outside of a blanket denial? Would you accept an outcome that clouded you in guilt and limited your future career opportunities?

After years of institutional neglect and concealment of sexual abuse, we thankfully live in a world in which allegations are taken seriously and victims are treated with care rather than contempt. However, we must avoid the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction. A claim cannot automatically equal conviction.

I’ve written about Penn State before, and I’ve seen from the comments the article inspired that some folks have very little tolerance for any opinion that deviates even slightly from their own point of view on this topic. I completely understand their feeling, and I appreciate that such condemnation is part of the bargain when taking on a third rail issue. Nevertheless, before you rush to share your righteous indignation, I want you to take a look at one last tweet Travis wrote about Schiano:

Travis dredged up the tenuous allegation implicating Schiano in the Penn State scandal solely to submarine the coach’s chance at the Tennessee job. It was part of an all-out social media campaign which included publicizing the athletic director’s phone number. But make no mistake: Schiano’s real crime in the eyes of Travis and Volunteer partisans is that he isn’t good enough in their collective mind to lead the Tennessee program back to SEC relevance.

So, when you cast your stones from the moral high ground on which you’ve pitched your tent, make sure to save a few for Clay Travis. He may not have conspired to cover up the Penn State scandal, but he cynically exploited the outrage its invocation generates.

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29 Comments

  • ESPORTS ARE THE FUTURE November 28, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Who remembers Guile’s theme music from Street Fighter II?

    Dah-duhduh-dah-dah!!! Dun Dah-duhduh-dah-dah!!!

    Reply
    • Toby kinte November 28, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Who’s theme from what????

      Reply
  • SH November 28, 2017 at 10:54 am

    I mean, if the guy is wrong, Schiano has a pretty solid case for a libel suit.

    Reply
    • Noted Pedophile Joe Paterno November 28, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Nah. Among other things you have to prove an allegation is false for libel. That’s going to be difficult when it’s actually true. Everyone at ped state knew about Jerry.

      Reply
      • SH November 28, 2017 at 5:43 pm

        like I said ‘if the guy is wrong’

        Reply
  • Good shit November 28, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Interesting article Tim. Thank you.

    Reply
  • I just don't care about pro sports anymore November 28, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Clay Travis looks like a complete douche

    Reply
  • that guy November 28, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Beyond cord cutting advertising revenues are down across the board. Its becoming difficult for a message to breakthrough the clutter of ads we are bombarded with as consumers. ESPN is not immune.

    You need to learn the business model. CPMs are increasingly lower for ESPN programming outside of live sports. Nielsen ratings come into play, with lower CPMs and Nielsen ratings that as a percentage are bigger drops than live sports, that means people are tuning out. No on talks about that. People don’t want to listen to politics with their sports. Instead of reporting sports news and analyzing, ESPN created a sports version of a CNN Panel. No one gives a shit about politics and sports. The average sports fan would rather read about Gronk being a playboy than give a shit about who was brave this week in social justice activism on and off the field related to sports and a panel discussion about it. Barstool is thriving. CB is doing well because those are sports sites that are catering to what young men under 35 want, who are the primary consumer of sports. ESPN is catering to the pink haired chick who’s husband changed his name when they got married. I’m stereotyping but not as much as you would think. Like why is Holly Rowe still employed? no one wants to see a fat chick talk about sports. No, ESPN has to change. they have to stop getting sucked into SJW type politics with sports.

    Reply
  • Msespn November 28, 2017 at 11:29 am

    I actually like Clay Travis. He is 100% right about ESPN. Waaaaayyy too liberal. I don’t want politics sprinkled all over sports coverage. ESPN is horrible. I agree with most of what Clay says….however, Clay was wrong on this one tho…..I’ll give you that.

    Reply
    • RonaldReaganShitInHisDiapers November 28, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      lol you mean “I only want politics I agree with in my sports coverage” right you fucking moron

      Reply
  • Pushups November 28, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Very well reasoned and written.

    Reply
  • wrongnessmaximus November 28, 2017 at 11:58 am

    In the early days of Outkick, it wasn’t quite like it is now. Travis decided early that being a dickhead peddling half truths would work in this political environment. That saying “boobs” on a news show would be interesting to someone other than a 12 yr old horn dog. Who doesn’t know ESPN sucks? No news there. He just framed that conversation. TN stepped on their dicks with this whole deal, he just pointed it out.

    Reply
  • BDog November 28, 2017 at 11:59 am

    There is a reason hearsay isn’t admissible in Court.

    And Schiano doesn’t even have a slander case because statements made in depositions are largely privileged.

    Reply
  • Rob Peel November 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    Legitimately, this may be the best article I’ve read on this site.

    -Long time reader, rare commenter

    Reply
    • From Wentz He Came November 28, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      I have to agree with this.

      Reply
  • Paul Jolovitz Fan Club President November 28, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Trump has lowered the bar for discourse and conversation in this country. Being dumb and ignorant is A-OK as long as you’re dumb and ignorant about things that people don’t like. Clay Travis is a troll. Kyle Scott is a troll. Trump is a troll. Nothing matters.

    Our society has been over taken by white trash. Stupid, poor people who are proud of being stupid and poor and threatened by anyone better than that. Code name is “regular people.” Welp, guess what regular person who didn’t graduate high school and lives in a trailer in Oklahoma with his 3 kids, you’re an idiot and your opinion doesn’t matter. It’s not anyone’s fault by your own that you’re living this life.

    Reply
    • CKCP November 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      (really smart guy commenting every day of his life on a Philly Sports blog)

      Reply
    • Pot meet Kettle November 28, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      A guy who spends incredible amounts of time repeating his trolls on the internet is preaching morality and bout living full lives to people on the internet.

      You hate in others what you see in yourself.

      Reply
    • you're a nobody and those you resent are better than you November 28, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      .

      Reply
  • good read November 28, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Schiano got screwed. You are correct. People did not like the choice to coach Tennessee back to relevance. Clay threw out a statement about covering up sexual abuse and that got a life of it’s own. Bad deal for Schiano.

    On the other hand, the only reason Schiano had any success at Rutgers was because Ray Rice decided to go there after Syracuse made some coaching changes. If Syracuse didn’t lose Rice, Schiano would be a D Coordinator a Directional Michigan school. He never was a good head coach and never will be.

    Additionally, putting a guy in charge that when given the opportunity to help build culture has failed every time – is a bad mistake for a Tennessee program trying to build a good culture.

    Sucks for Schiano reputation – but I think Karma had something to do with it. Now Clay needs to see what Karma has in store for him.

    Reply
  • weird November 28, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I make a perfectly logical statement about Schiano and my post gets booted?

    Reply
  • G Money and Nino November 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Nice job on the article. Penn State got everything they deserved but Schiano definitely got hosed. The whole point of the penalties imposed on PSU was that the problem started at the top and the culture created and allowed by Paterno. Trying to pin it on a lower level assistant is a joke of an excuse. He’s not the first coach to do well, flame out and then go be an assistant with a top program in order to reboot his career. He’ll likely do well when he finally gets the chance. By the way, the Jolovitz fan club comment was utter horse shit and I feel dumber from reading it

    Reply
    • CKCP November 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Jolovitz dude is, by far and away, the worst commenter on this site. It is a shame that entertaining commenters left yet that numbnutz remains

      Reply
  • Rob D November 28, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Well written piece. One thing you failed to mention is the two political reps who came out publicly to fuel the Shiano fire are both running for Governor in Tennessee according to ESPN SEC reporter Chris Low. Social Media and Politics…….. perfect together,

    Reply
  • travis is right, you pantywaist liberal d-bags November 28, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    .

    Reply
  • Rollin blounts and jays November 28, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    This is the guy that said he likes boobs, right? Hahahahahahahahahahaha
    I believe he was wrong with this though. My question is, schiano had other jobs since the Sandusky thing, why no protests for those jobs

    Reply
  • Erik November 28, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    and yet Im willing to go out on a limb and guess that he has no issue whatsoever with Roy Moore becoming a US Senator….

    Reply
    • why should he? the accusation is demonstrably false November 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      as franken and conyers, proven and admitted, go right back to work

      Reply
  • 409JVP November 28, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Most of you morons don’t know squat about the PSU scandal and have never read the bullshit Freeh Report. Do yourselves a favor and go to http://www.framingpaterno.com.

    Reply
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