KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Butch Jones has laid his last brick at Tennessee.
UT athletic director John Currie fired Jones on Sunday morning, hours after the Vols were routed 50-17 at Missouri.
The loss dropped UT’s record to 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the SEC. The Vols never have gone winless in SEC play. League games remain against LSU and Vanderbilt. The Vols also never have lost eight games in a season, a possibility this year.
Jones informed his coaches Sunday morning. Jones was offered a chance to coach the last two games but declined, a source said.
Currie named Brady Hoke as interim coach. Hoke is in his first season as the Vols’ defensive line coach, and formerly was coach at Michigan, San Diego State and Ball State.
“Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be competitively,” Currie said in a statement officially announcing the decision. “For that reason, I have asked Coach Jones to step down as head football coach.”
Currie also said that under Jones, “the program has improved tremendously in the areas of academics, discipline and community involvement.”
Jones was hired December 7, 2012 after winning or sharing four conference titles in six seasons at Central Michigan (where he was 27-13) and Cincinnati (23-14); he followed Brian Kelly at both schools. He had an 11-win season at Central Michigan and a 10-win season at Cincinnati.
Jones was 12-13 his first two seasons at Tennessee before posting back-to-back 9-4 records.
Jones’ buyout is about $8.1 million. He gets $2.5 million for each of the three years left on his contract, which runs through February 28, 2021. That’s $7.5 million plus more than three months of a pro-rated salary.
The buyout for the assistants is just over $6 million, counting the strength and conditioning coach. Each assistant’s deal runs through February 28, 2019.
Each coach – including Jones – has offset language that means UT can subtract what if owes a coach if that coach gets another job.
Jones did a good job helping Tennessee climb out of the depths of the Derek Dooley disaster; Dooley had back-to-back 1-7 SEC records.
Jones won nine games two years in a row, won three consecutive bowl games and had two top-25 teams. Jones upgraded the talent as six Vols were taken in the first four rounds of the most recent NFL draft. In Jones’ first two years, no UT players were selected.
Paid attendance climbed back to nearly 100,000 per game for three years in a row and an average of over 70,000 season tickets were sold the past two years.
But the Vols blew a chance to win the SEC East last season with a loss to South Carolina, then frittered away a likely Sugar Bowl berth with a loss to Vanderbilt.
With this season’s team out of the East chase early and with an offense that ranks last in the SEC, Currie obviously decided Jones wasn’t the coach to get the Vols where they want to go – and that is back to Atlanta to play for an SEC championship. The Vols haven’t played in the SEC’s title game since 2007; that was their fifth appearance in the championship game in an 11-season span.
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