KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee athletic director John Currie is defending the process of 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.

COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 11: Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 48-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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Currie issued a statement Monday acknowledging that the Ohio State defensive coordinator was a leading candidate for the Volunteers’ coaching vacancy without explaining why the two sides parted ways.

Currie says Tennessee “carefully interviewed and vetted” Schiano and that the former Rutgers and NFL coach “received the highest recommendations.”

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The school and Schiano were close to an agreement Sunday before the deal fell apart after a protest on campus and complaints on social media from fans, state representatives and gubernatorial candidates.

Tennessee looking to fill its coaching vacancy following the Nov. 12 firing of Butch Jones.

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