Mob Justice in SEC Country: Tennessee Football and the Alabama Senate Race

After another dismal football season, the University of Tennessee has now fumbled its coaching search. Last week, the Volunteers had reached an agreement to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as its head football coach. However, the deal was dropped because of allegations that he knew about a sexual predator and did nothing—allegations which have never been supported by witnesses or evidence. University officials backed out of the memoranda of understanding after outrage broke out on campus and around the state, including from state legislators. The focus of the opposition to Schiano’s hiring centered around an allegation made against him in a 2015 deposition stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. In 2011, Sandusky, a longtime assistant coach at Penn State, was convicted on forty-five counts of sexual abuse of young boys. Schiano was alleged to have known about Sandusky’s abuse without reporting it.

Time to fire up the outrage machine.

Vol nation loudly protested Schiano’s hiring, citing his cover-up of child molestation. Students marched to the university athletic center, athletics director John Currie’s cellphone number was posted on Twitter, and state politicians valiantly virtue-signaled their opposition to Schiano. A large rock near Neyland Stadium that is often painted with messages by various student groups declared: “Schiano covered up child rape at Penn State.” Dutifully intimidated, Currie backed out of the agreement and restarted the coaching search. The mob had won, and Schiano was not the only loser; Currie was also fired for his troubles.

What was the allegation against Schiano and why does it matter? In 2015, former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was deposed in a civil trial between the university and its insurance company regarding payouts in the wake of the scandal. McQueary testified that another assistant coach had told him that Schiano had once walked in on Sandusky and a boy in the shower in the early 1990s, and that he mentioned it to him the next morning and then never said another word about it.

Now, if you are just a Volunteer football fan upset that your school just hired the guy whose defense gave up fifty-five points to Iowa a few weeks ago, then hearsay from the early nineties will serve as a nice pretext for voicing your opposition. But if you are a Christian concerned for justice, then you can’t just punt on due process. It is unjust to convict a man’s character based on hearsay.

But why should we care about the Schiano ordeal, especially if you are not a college football fan? Because allegations are flying around like 747s at O’Hare International. Every time you turn around, another accusation of sexual assault lands. Thankfully, God’s Word tells us how to handle accusations: you consider them immediately, but you do not believe them automatically.

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” —Proverbs 18:17

The biblical way to consider accusations is to reserve judgment until you have heard both sides. And part of hearing both sides is evaluating evidence and hearing witnesses.

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”—Deut. 19:15

So, biblical justice is concerned with actual justice, not perceived justice. That is, it insists that we find out what actually happened, not just what purportedly happened. Hearsay and hashtags don’t cut it; to establish what actually happened you need two or three witnesses. According to Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, no witnesses or evidence support the claim that Schiano knew about and covered up Sandusky’s molestation of children.

The point here is not to establish Schiano’s innocence or guilt, but rather to highlight the injustice of taking an allegation at face value and running with it with no consideration for the other side or due process. Schiano’s reputation was tarnished based on nothing more than the third-party whispers of former colleagues.

Of course, Schiano is not the only one flatly denying accusations in a pedophilia scandal. Enter Judge Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race. The stakes are higher in politics than in Southeastern Conference football, but the standards are apparently not. Allegations and accusations have been leveled against him—enough to warrant an investigation, no doubt—but not one single instance has been established yet by the requisite witnesses. This cannot be a trivial matter for Christians, lest we abandon biblical justice for the cheap SJW knockoff version.

The Schiano and Moore stories share something else. Allegations were weaponized against them by those who do not think they are good enough. It is highly unlikely that Tennessee football fans are so pure-hearted they would turn back a winning coach on such thin evidence. The problem is that Schiano wasn’t the winning coach they wanted. They wanted Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they got Schiano, who was fired after two disappointing seasons with the same Buccaneers and who had a .500 winning percentage at Rutgers. He wasn’t a good enough coach, so they axed him with the allegation.

Judge Moore’s political opponents, especially those within his own party, have chosen respectability over justice in a last ditch effort to rid themselves of their unwanted candidate. Of course, the liberals would use anything they could against him. But, it has been establishment conservatives, who didn’t get their Gruden when Moore beat Luther Strange in the primary, who have been pummeling Moore the most. Embarrassed by Moore’s politics, they cued up the ol’ outrage machine and took to Twitter. Whereas some high-profile college football journalists have come to Schiano’s defense and cautioned against accepting an allegation without evidence or witnesses, all of the Respectable Right declared Moore’s accusers credible by fiat, concluded he is a child sexual predator, and demanded that he step aside. Unfortunately for them, Moore won a primary election, and so they cannot simply rescind a memorandum of understanding, like the officials at the University of Tennessee. They accuse Moore’s supporters of selling out morality for the sake of power, but Moore’s predatory immorality has not yet been established. Whether he is guilty or not, his opponents have already sold out justice for respectability. We are all witnesses to that.

Photo Credit: The Tennesseean

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