Let’s face it. It’s over.
Barring a miracle comeback, Butch Jones will not be retained as Tennessee’s coach next season. I’m not debating the merits of Jones or whether he should be fired. I’m just pointing out the obvious.
The past three games under Jones have been woefully embarrassing. That stretch was punctuated by Saturday’s 41-0 home loss to Georgia. The defensive nature of his news conferences show that he’s feeling the pressure. That he hasn’t received a contract extension is a sure sign that first-year athletic director John Currie isn’t 100 percent sold that Jones is the long-term answer. It’s also worth noting that Jones has been linked to other jobs throughout his time at UT; does he even really want to be Tennessee’s coach given the pressure of the job?
I know it’s not going to be cheap to get rid of Jones and his staff. Reports say it would cost over $10 million in buyouts. But the cost of keeping Jones would be even more expensive. Fans have lost faith. Think they’ll keep showing up to games? Think they’ll keep donating the same amount for the current product?
It has been 10 years since the Vols have played in the SEC championship game. Tennessee is losing an entire generation of fans who will be expected to buy tickets and make donations. There’s too much at stake to simply hope Jones can magically change the current trajectory of his UT tenure.
If Currie indeed has serious doubt about Jones’ ability to turn the Vols into a championship program, then a change should be made immediately. That would give UT a chance to get a head start over several other top-notch programs who also figure to be looking for head coaches. UT easily could turn to defensive line coach Brady Hoke as the interim; he has head-coaching experience and could lead the Vols for the remainder of the season.
The common question now is, “Who can the Vols hire to replace Jones?” That shouldn’t be a concern. UT is, at worst, a top-15 job in the nation.
The Vols struck out on their top candidates when they decided to replace Derek Dooley. It was a bit surprising, but understandable in retrospect. Dooley left UT’s program in a mess. The Vols were on the verge of NCAA sanctions because of a sagging APR and the roster was as bad as it had been in decades. That’s not the case anymore.
Jones’ program management and recruiting has improved the APR and the roster. It’s too bad his game-planning and game management couldn’t have led to more wins.
That hasn’t happened. It’s time for the Vols to move on.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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