Mike Teel doesn’t feel bad for Greg Schiano.
He feels bad for Tennessee.
“It’s amazing what social media has done to athletics and our country in general,” said Teel, the head football coach at Don Bosco Prep and former Rutgers star quarterback who played under Schiano, a Wyckoff, N.J., native.
The news that Schiano, currently an assistant coach at Ohio State, had been hired as the new head coach at Tennessee on Sunday only to have the offer quickly rescinded after a slew of protests worried about his alleged connections to Penn State’s child molestation scandal, set off a social media firestorm Sunday evening.
Part of the backlash stems from Schiano’s connection to Penn State and former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Testimony that was unsealed last year detailed former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary’s claim that he heard that Schiano, who was an assistant with the Nittany Lions from 1990-95, had witnessed Sandusky “doing something” to a boy in the shower.
Schiano testified and publicly denied seeing — or even having knowledge of — Sandusky’s crimes against children.
“I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse during my time at Penn State,” Schiano said in a statement in July 2016.
Back in North Jersey, where Schiano’s first coaching job was as an assistant at Ramapo High School, there were many rushing to his defense.
“Obviously it’s different for the guys who really know him and what he stands for,” said Teel. “He changed my life in a lot of ways. He helped me mature. I went through things with him I didn’t go through with anybody else, and he was always there to lead and give me a direction to follow.”
Teel has stayed in regular contact with Schiano, saying that he has been a mentor for him as his own coaching career has climbed.
“I’m disappointed as anyone who is close to coach in the way things were handled by Tennessee,” Teel said. “I’m disappointed for the kids at Tennessee that those kids won’t have the opportunity to be developed and coached by him.”
Tennessee has its own connection to North Jersey football at the moment. The Volunteers’ starting quarterback is former Bergen Catholic star Jarrett Guarantano, a Lodi native. Jarrett’s father, James, is a member of the Rutgers Hall of Fame, having played wide receiver for the Scarlet Knights.
“I think it’s an embarrassment,” said current Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile. “Coach Schiano is one of the best coaches and one of the best people I’ve met in college football. For him to be attacked over something completely unproven is a shame. It’s scary that faceless people have the ability to hurt this man’s career and reputation that he spent a lifetime building.”
“It’s all based on double hearsay,” said Teel, who played at Rutgers from 2005-08.
“That’s why we have a court of law, and that’s why the NCAA was there, and you know it’s as thorough as anyone. His name was never associated with anything other than one guy who ever heard it.”
Teel said his feelings could be summarized by a tweet posted by former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand that read “I’m with you coach,” and showed a picture of LeGrand being carted off the field after his paralyzing neck injury in 2010.
In 11 years as Rutgers head coach from 2001-11, Schiano was 68-67 and guided the Scarlet Knights to six bowl appearances. He coached the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons.