July 18, 2024

Was hiring Butch Jones worth it?

Butch Jones was fired as head coach of the Tennessee football program, but do the pros outweigh the cons in his time in Knoxville?

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 10, 2015 - Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach Butch Jones leaves the locker room with the team during the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee athletic director John Currie announced on Nov. 12 that head football coach Butch Jones was fired following a demoralizing 50-17 blowout loss to Missouri. Jones finished his stint in Knoxville with a 34-27 record, three bowl wins and a mediocre 14-24 record in SEC play. Although he did win a handful of big games at Tennessee, he was never fully able to return the Volunteers to their glory days. However, regardless of his average record, he brought Tennessee football back to prominence from the dark times of Derek Dooley.

Below is Currie’s press conference announcing Jones’ termination:

While Jones clearly brought Tennessee back to prominence, it is still up for debate whether he was a good hire. If the point of hiring Jones was to bring Tennessee football back to the spotlight, then mission accomplished. However, if the point of hiring him was to contend for National Championships, he was clearly not the man for the job. For the price that Tennessee was able to secure Jones for, it might have been worth it. He was making roughly four million dollars per-year, which ranked seventh in the SEC.

Jones was being paid middle-of-the-road money to bring in incredible amounts of revenue each year, including the second highest revenue in college football last year. Looking at it from an administration standpoint, the yield on what Jones was being payed versus the money he brought in was insane.

Regardless of the revenue brought in, Jones had one of the worst winning percentages in Volunteer football history. Jones has the third worst winning percentage in Tennessee history out of 14 possible coaches. He did manage to stabilize the program for the first time since the firing of former head coach Phillip Fulmer, but he never quite exceeded expectations. There were bright spots, such as the Hail Mary win over Georgia to (nearly) solidify the SEC East. However, Jones also had tons of dark times in his tenure, such as losing to South Carolina coming off a bye week for two straight years.

No matter what, it can’t be denied that Jones brought stability to a program that was clearly struggling, but the Vols football program hasn’t achieved great heights through “stability”. At some point it became clear that Jones was not capable of producing championship-caliber seasons, and that time came in the 2016. Tennessee had themselves all but booked for a date with Alabama in the SEC Championship, but let it slip away.

After beating both Florida and Georgia, it was clear that the Vols were the frontrunners for winning the SEC East. However, a loss to South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the final game of the season sealed Tennessee’s fate. Jones and the Volunteers had a chance to make a trip to Atlanta for the first time since 2007 but managed to come up short. The 2016 season was the start of the spiral of Jones and the Tennessee football program.

Fast forward to 2017 and the Volunteers are dead last in the SEC and have yet to win a conference game in over a year. I commend Jones for returning Tennessee football to prominence and stabilizing the program, but it was time for his era on Rocky Top to end.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Edited by Ben McKee