©2012 NPT PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER
UT football coach Butch Jones speaks to reporters in a press conference inside the Tennessee locker room on Friday.
|Published: 4:34 PM, 12/08/2012
||Last updated: 4:45 PM, 12/08/2012
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
New Tennessee football coach Butch Jones better get his best
recruiting pitch ready.
He's sure going to need it.
Recruiting players to Tennessee,
a state largely devoid of high school football talent, has always been the make or break result on
the football field. Now recruiting a fan base might be the make or break statement for the athletic
department's future financial footing.
Tennessee, and Jones who becomes the Vols' fourth
coach in six seasons, now must sell the fact that their beloved program has just hired someone who
lost to the guy they just fired. Fans thought hiring anyone would be an upgrade over Dooley, who
lost almost 10 percent of Tennessee's SEC games in history.
While the Dooley era showed some
flashes of promise over his three-year tenure, the wins were few and far between. Now Tennessee fans
are expected to root for the coach of one of the teams they beat?
Some fans went to the
extreme on Thursday evening to send hate messages to Jones' Twitter account. While the anger of
having a coaching search blow up in the national spotlight is understandable, the news brought even
more of a black eye to the Tennessee brand.
It's no wonder fans are angry, or even
After recorded attendance at two of the final three home games of the 2012 season
dipped into the low 80,000s - the Volunteers already strapped financial budget took another blow
with lost anticipated revenue.
So Tennessee did the only thing possible. They whacked Derek
Dooley and hoped for a reboot of their football team to reenergize fans.
The coaching search
probably did little to energize a fan base starving for one ounce of success.
which began with visions of a certain former Super Bowl winning coach dancing in fans' minds and
then quickly turned into a bottom of the bargain bin hunt.
Sights were set on Florida
State's Jimbo Fisher - a guy who Hart worked closely with in the past - but he didn't even
interview. The search then went to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Louisville coach Charlie
Strong. Both spurned the Vols publicly. Gundy however claimed talks with Tennessee were never
serious and Strong received no raise, but only a contract extension to stay with the
That led Tennessee to turn to Jones, likely the fourth choice of the search and to
some, the last resort for an already divided and petrified fan base.
However, schools rarely
get their first pick. They rarely get the home run hire. Nick Saban to Alabama is the exception,
rather than the rule.
Les Miles was barely a winning coach at Oklahoma State. Mark Richt and
Will Muschamp were upper echelon coordinators. Steve Spurrier arrived in the SEC way back when from
Jones mentioned as much in Friday's introductory press
"It's a process - you have to look at the body of work," Jones said. "It hasn't
been just formed at one institution, it's now been formed at two institutions along the
"I will be the first to tell you that Nick Saban and Les Miles had zero SEC experience
when they came into the league," Jones said.
Jones actually inherits a Tennessee program on
its best footing since the close of the 2008 season.
He comes across with a solid resume,
including four league championships in six seasons as a head coach. Some in fact say his resume is
better than Strong's, who Tennessee was set to sorely over pay had he accepted the job on Wednesday.
Unlike Strong however, Jones was ready and willing to accept the job. Two days ago he was
being courted by former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning to the University of Colorado. Friday,
he stood in the Peyton Manning Locker Room quarterback at Tennessee.
Jones took a job when no
one else wanted to. He was excited. Now his job is to excite a fan base desperate for a win.
That will be a hard sale to make, with three trips to Top Five opponents in the first eight
games of the 2013 schedule, but fans should be thankful Jones took the gig and thankful he was still
available when Tennessee was left standing at the alter.
Hart told the media on Friday that
Jones was energetic and sold him on his passion for the Tennessee job.
Now it's that passion
that Jones will need to turn into victories to sell his vision to the Tennessee fan
It'll be a hard sell, but one he absolutely must make.
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