KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The memorandum of understanding signed between Greg Schiano and University of Tennessee athletic director John Currie for Schiano to be Tennessee's next head football coach was not signed by the university chancellor, chancellor's office spokesperson Ryan Robinson told ESPN.
Lawyers on both sides are expected to argue whether it's still a binding legal document and whether Schiano is owed any compensation without the signature of Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport, who released a statement about the hiring fiasco Monday, saying, "I deeply regret the events of yesterday for everyone involved."
Currie, in his first year as Tennessee's athletic director, signed Schiano to a memorandum of understanding on Sunday. A plane was waiting in Columbus, Ohio, to bring Schiano to Tennessee that night and introduce him as the Volunteers' coach. But Tennessee backed out of the memorandum of understanding following outrage by fans and state politicians when news broke that the Vols were finalizing a deal with Schiano, who's in his second year as Ohio State's defensive coordinator.
Memorandums of understanding are formal records of the understanding between the coach and the school as to the terms and conditions under which the university would employ the coach. They can be legally binding documents when signed and fully executed, and they often include full contract terms including salaries and bonuses.
While the goal is to eventually have lawyers put the details into a more extended contract, sometimes coaches do coach and get paid off their signed memorandums.
ESPN spoke to several athletic directors on the condition of anonymity about whether Schiano and the university had a binding agreement for him to be the football coach at Tennessee.
One veteran athletic director told ESPN that if the chancellor's signature was missing, he would not consider the document to be fully executed and therefore legally binding.
A Power 5 athletic director said the key to the battle over the contract's validity might also have to do with whether the final parting of ways was one-sided or mutual, and what evidence there is of the breakup. If it was Tennessee clearly walking away on its own, Schiano, the athletic director said, would have a much better chance of receiving compensation.
Much of the outrage by Tennessee fans was directed at a single reference to Schiano in a 2015 deposition that was unsealed last year as part of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.
Schiano worked as an assistant under defensive coordinator Sandusky at Penn State from 1990 to 1995. The deposition that fans were citing included former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary's testimony that another Penn State coach, Tom Bradley, had told McQueary that Schiano had talked of seeing Sandusky abusing a boy in the early 1990s. Schiano was never implicated by any other party over the course of the Sandusky investigation.
Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison for his conviction on 45 counts of sexual abuse.
Schiano told ESPN's Adam Schefter last year, "I never saw any abuse, nor had reason to suspect any abuse, during my time at Penn State."
Schiano's current boss, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, spoke out on his behalf Monday, and Anthony Lubrano, a trustee at Penn State since 2012, said in statement Monday that Schiano "had nothing to do with the Sandusky scandal. 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."
ESPN's Darren Rovell contributed to this report.