University of Tennessee
Tennessee fans are unhappy about the conclusion to their drawn-out coaching search, but they should be happy about the coach they got.
Butch Jones was Tennessee's fourth choice--at best, fourth--for its position of head football coach. Jones is a Big East coach with no SEC coaching experience whose most ignominious loss at Cincinnati came to the man Tennessee just fired: Derek Dooley, who coached the Vols in a 45-23 defeat of the Bearcats on September 10, 2011.
That is correct: Tennessee just hired a man who has not beaten a single ranked team.
Butch Jones has no victories versus ranked teams in his career, and yes, did lose to Derek Dooley. This is largely a matter of Jones coaching the Cincinnati Bearcats, a Big East team lodged in a conference whose only ranked teams have a habit of fleeing to other conferences. in the meantime, after a 4-8 first season in Cincinnati, Jones won 19 of his final 25 games and won two split conference titles. Yes, you can still split the conference title in the Big East, because they really would like to have a title game, but no one stays long enough to make a championship game feasible. Jones made the best of a bad situation, just as he did at Central Michigan, where he won 27 games in three years and won two conference titles.
Jones currently has a one-game win streak versus Vandy, and a bowl win in that same game. Derek Dooley had and has neither.
Butch Jones is also a failure of a hire in another sense: recruiting. Jones has never recruited in the SEC, a must for any coach coming into the SEC snakepit. Tennessee, more than any other SEC school, requires a coach who understands the layout of the talent pools, and how to access them from the difficult, contested geographical position of Rocky Top. Tennessee recruiting has sunk--particularly on defense--over the last few years, and there is no indication Butch Jones is capable of righting it.
A quick look at Cincinnati's roster shows that if any coach has an understanding of Tennessee's diversified recruiting needs, it is Jones. He recruited Florida and Georgia well, and excelled at finding and successfully recruiting talent from out-of-state, something Tennessee has always had to do thanks to its small talent base and location. His starting quarterback was from New Orleans, and his leading playmaker, Ralph David Abernathy IV, was from Atlanta. Jones also did a nice job keeping the local talent around him, that same talent that more often than not was pursued by Ohio State. He also developed that far-flung talent, another failing of Dooley's throughout his tenure.
Jones will surely be adequate, but is that what Tennessee is really after here? Tennessee fans craved a winner, a splashy hire, a real proven champion and program-builder like Jon Gruden, Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora or even Mike Gundy. Rather than landing any of these, Dave Hart dragged the Tennessee fan base through an embarrassment of rejections before finally pulling a coach who simply could not say no. Tennessee deserved better. Tennessee fans deserved better.
No, no you didn't. The Tennessee fan base deserved a coaching search executed with effort, honesty, and with an eye toward actually hiring someone who could do the difficult job of coaching the Volunteers football team. That person, contrary to all reports, was never Gruden, who was at most offered the job by boosters before the AD could react, and then scuttled when it became clear that half the people involved in Tennessee football are barking, tree-licking insane people.
Then the university pursued three very difficult targets because when you have ambition, you aim at targets you might not hit. Charlie Strong was staying at Louisville from the jump because after two decades of being an assistant, the Cardinals gave him a shot, and Strong is legitimately attached on both an emotional and financial level to the university and the team. Mike Gundy is another excellent choice, but is a lifetime Oklahoma State alum and coach, and might have been angling for a well-deserved raise the whole time. Larry Fedora has been at UNC one year, and leaving after one year gets you a Kiffin/Graham mercenary tag.
Butch Jones is a good coach who said yes, and was looking to take a better and better-paying job. If you have a problem with this, you have a problem with America, commie. Butch Jones has a better record coming in than his predecessor, has actually been a successful coach at the FBS level, can recruit, prefers a run-first offense, and unlike anyone interviewed ACTUALLY WANTS TO BE IN KNOXVILLE COACHING THIS FOOTBALL TEAM.
No, he's not Jon Gruden, but you know what he is? Real, talented, and currently employed by the University of Tennessee, where he will not flirt with an NFL job, not lose to Kentucky and Vandy on the regular, and will not care about the lunatic fringe of the Tennessee fan base currently holing up in the hills with delusions of grandeur that they are Tuscaloosa-by-the-Tennessee-River. Right now you are a program that lost to Vanderbilt and Missouri in 2012.
Start there, and work your way out of the woods one game at a time. Start with someone like, say, Butch Jones, the new head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.
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