KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee athletic director John Currie is defending 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 had been 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.

The school and Schiano were close to an agreement Sunday before the deal fell apart after heavy criticism 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.

Currie said Tennessee "carefully interviewed and vetted" Schiano and that he "received the highest recommendations."

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he wasn't involved in the search but added that he doesn't "think anybody looks at the way everything came down (Sunday) and says that's the way it should happen."

Haslam also said his brother, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, wasn't playing an instrumental role in the search. Jimmy Haslam was part of the search committee that assisted in the hiring of Currie this year.

"I do think we should all be concerned about a rush to judgment," Bill Haslam said.

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