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OSU officials, Penn State trustee come to Schiano's defense

COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, director of athletics Gene Smith, and a Penn State trustee came to the defense Monday of Greg Schiano, whose planned hiring at Tennessee was nixed at the last moment after a social media outcry from Volunteers supporters.

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Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding with Tennessee, which pulled out of the agreement on Sunday to hire Schiano.

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Schiano and Tennessee signed a memorandum of understanding for the current Buckeyes defensive coordinator to become the school’s new head coach. Reports that Schiano and Tennessee were close to an agreement set off widespread criticism of the move, which was strong enough that Tennessee backed out of hiring Schiano.

For the time being, Schiano will remain at  Ohio State, which plays Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship Saturday in Indianapolis.

“I just will make this comment — I apologize, I've said it many, many times — he's an elite person, elite father, elite husband, elite friend, and elite football coach. And I stand by my coach,” Meyer said at his weekly news conference Monday.

“I just don't know enough, and it's not fair to my players to make any more comments than that because we have a huge game this week.”

Much of the outcry stems from Schiano’s alleged link to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, where Schiano served as an assistant coach.

Former Nittany Lions assistant Mike McQueary said in a sworn 2015 deposition a different assistant, Tom Bradley, told him Schiano had seen Sandusky “doing something” with a child. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child molestation in 2012.

The deposition, which came in a civil suit between Penn State and its insurance company, was hearsay, and McQueary and Schiano never worked together. Additionally, Schiano never was charged in criminal court, sued in civil court, deposed, or interviewed for Louis Freeh’s report on the scandal involving Sandusky.

Schiano and Bradley have denied the allegations in McQueary’s deposition.

Smith, the longtime director of athletics at OSU, told the Columbus Dispatch on Monday he believes the lone allegation “was used as an excuse, in my view, to disparage Greg.”

Further, Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano came to Schiano’s defense by releasing a statement Monday afternoon.

Lubrano, who called it his “life's work” to learn every detail about the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, said Schiano did not deserve to be associated with the crimes in any way.

“I can confidently say that Coach Greg Schiano had nothing to do with the Sandusky scandal,” the statement read. “Any stories about his involvement are completely uncorroborated and without basis in fact. To impugn Mr. Schiano's character based on hearsay alone is irresponsible and unfair.”

Ohio State said it vetted Schiano’s candidacy, which included his time at Penn State, before hiring him.

Tennessee athletic director John Currie released a statement defending the school’s information gathering process on Schiano.

“We carefully interviewed and vetted him, as we do candidates for all positions,” Currie wrote. “He received the highest recommendations for character, family values and commitment to academic achievement and student-athlete welfare from his current and former athletics directors, players, coaching colleagues and experienced media figures.”

Currie added Schiano never was involved in the Sandusky proceedings in any official capacity.

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“Coach Schiano is not mentioned in the Freeh report and was not one of the more than 400 people interviewed in the investigation. We also confirmed that Coach Schiano was never deposed and never asked to testify in any criminal or civil matter,” he added.

Schiano has not spoken publicly since Tennessee pulled away from its offer. His one previous stint as a college head coach came from 2001-11 at Rutgers, where he posted a 68-67 record and was 5-1 in bowl games at the traditionally moribund program.

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at: npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110, or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz.

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