After a long, winding and at times tumultuous search, the University of Tennessee has hired Butch Jones to be their next football coach. The announcement will officially come at a Friday afternoon press conference.
Jones comes to Rocky Top after three years at Cincinnati, where he compiled a 23-14 record, including 19 wins over the last two years. Overall, Jones is 50-27 in six years as a head coach.
But while the hire brings closure to Tennessee’s search, it hardly brings a sense of relief to a fan-base looking for answers after Derek Dooley’s disastrous three-year stretch at the school. Dooley went 15-21 overall and won just one SEC game over the last two seasons, before being fired prior to Tennessee’s season finale against Kentucky. Ironically, one of Dooley’s few “signature” wins came over Jones and Cincinnati in the 2011 season.
The question now, is whether Jones is the right man to take a very tough job.
While Jones’ resume itself is impressive, it’s one thing to do it against schools like UConn, Rutgers and South Florida every year, and quite another to do it against Florida, Alabama and Georgia. It also doesn’t help that Jones has never been known as a particularly strong recruiter, and is now going to a school where recruiting is a necessity. Besides the fact that Tennessee is in the brutal SEC (where EVERYONE recruits well), but also that Tennessee doesn’t have the inherent advantage of a ton of in-state high school talent like Georgia, LSU, Florida and others do. It also doesn’t help that Vanderbilt has emerged within state as a real alternative to high school football players looking to state in-state for school.
Jones’ hiring is further complicated by the simple fact that he was no better than Tennessee’s third choice to fill the job. It’s no secret that the Vols coveted former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, and that they also offered the job to Louisville’s Charlie Strong before both rebuffed them. There were also rumors that Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was offered the job before eventually turning it down.
Either way, Butch Jones is officially the next head football coach at Tennessee.
Only time will tell whether he’s the right fit or not.
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