Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

December 7, 2012

Vols hire Cincinnati's Butch Jones

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones wasn't Tennessee's first choice as its next football coach. The Volunteers believe the former Cincinnati coach will prove he's the right choice.

Tennessee announced Friday morning that Jones had agreed to become its fourth coach in six seasons, ending a tumultuous couple of days for both parties. Tennessee has scheduled a Friday afternoon news conference to announce the hiring, which was first reported by VolQuest.com.

"It is truly an honor and a privilege to be the head football coach at the University of Tennessee,'' Jones said in a statement. "I understand the values, traditions and level of expectations that come with this position, and I look forward to being a part of the Vol Nation.''

Jones, 44, has a 50-27 record in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years. He now faces the task of rebuilding a former Southeastern Conference power that has posted three consecutive losing seasons.

Tennessee went after at least two other candidates before hiring Jones.

During the 19-day search to replace Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in his three-year tenure, the Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said Thursday he had turned down their offer and would stay at Louisville.

Jones, meanwhile, was apparently waiting for a job like Tennessee.

On the same day Strong made his announcement, Jones rejected an offer to take over Colorado's program. He also had been linked to the Purdue coaching job before withdrawing his name from consideration.

"I am very pleased that Butch Jones is the head football coach at Tennessee,'' athletic director Dave Hart said in a school release. "Butch has a track record of success at every program he has led, and he views Tennessee as the job he coveted. We look forward to Butch leading our football program back to prominence.''

Jones' hiring means each of the four Southeastern Conference teams that fired coaches this year has filled their vacancies.

Kentucky hired Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops last week to replace Joker Phillips. Arkansas hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin on Tuesday to take over for John L. Smith. Auburn selected Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn on Tuesday as the replacement for Gene Chizik.

Jones will be Tennessee's fourth coach in a six-season stretch, not including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's stint as interim head coach in the 2012 season finale after Dooley's dismissal. Phillip Fulmer was fired after the 2008 season, ending his career with a 152-52 record at Tennessee. Lane Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for Southern California. Dooley lasted three years.

After winning at least eight games for 16 consecutive seasons from 1989-2004 and posting double-digit wins in nine of those years, Tennessee hasn't earned more than seven victories in any of its last five seasons. The Vols went 5-7 this fall for their fifth losing season over the last eight years. This also is the first time since 1909-11 that Tennessee has finished below .500 three years in a row.

Hart said at the start of the search that head coaching experience was "critically important'' and that he wanted a coach who "knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC.'' Jones lacks SEC experience, but he has a career winning percentage of .649. Jones' teams have earned at least a share of a conference title in four of his six seasons as a head coach.

After replacing Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and then again at Cincinnati, Jones maintained the momentum his predecessor had established at each school.

In Jones' three-year stint at Central Michigan, the Chippewas won two Mid-American Conference championships and posted a combined league record of 22-3. Jones went 4-8 in his first year at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats are 19-6 since and have tied for first place in the Big East each of the last two seasons. Cincinnati's 2011 season included a 45-23 loss at Tennessee.

Jones signed a contract extension after the 2011 season that includes a $1.4 million buyout if he left before Jan. 1. Cincinnati has made defensive line coach Steve Stripling its interim head coach for the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl against Duke in Charlotte, N.C., while it begins searching for Jones' successor.

"There is no timetable to make the hire,'' Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock said Friday. "Making the right hire is better than the quickest hire, but admittedly sooner is better if possible.''

Jones' background as an assistant is entirely on offense, but one of his biggest challenges at Tennessee initially will be strengthening a defense that allowed the most points (35.7) and yards (471.4) per game of any SEC team this season. The Vols hadn't allowed that high a scoring average since 1893, when they gave up 42.7 points per game while playing a six-game schedule. They hadn't yielded that many yards per game since at least 1950, the earliest year Tennessee's sports information department has that statistic on file.

The makeup of Jones' first offense at Tennessee also remains uncertain, at least for now.

Starting quarterback Tyler Bray and star wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter all are projected as first- or second-round draft picks if they choose to turn pro rather than returning to school for their senior seasons. Bray threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns this year to rank second on Tennessee's single-season list in both categories, behind Peyton Manning's 3,819 yards and 36 touchdown passes in 1997. Hunter caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Patterson gained a school-record 1,858 all-purpose yards.

Junior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James also has been mentioned as a possible draft candidate.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Patel named RSU men's basketball assistant coach

    Rogers State University head men’s basketball coach Justin Barkley named Vinay Patel the new assistant men’s basketball coach on Monday.

    “I am very excited about bringing Vinay on board,” Barkley said. “He brings invaluable experience to the program as he is a well-respected recruiter and his NCAA Division II resume is a perfect fit as we continue our transition to become a full-NCAA Division II member.”

    April 22, 2014

  • DSC_0089web.jpg All-State Hoopsters

    Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell capped off a stellar four-year prep basketball career with Tulsa World 2nd-Team All-State recognition.
    O’Dell, a 5-foot-5 floor general that will compete for the Lamar University Lady Cardinals in the Southland Conference next season, was one of five girls basketball players from Rogers County to earn All-State accolades.
    Claremore senior point guard Kaleigh Cox, Inola senior point guard Lexi Williams, Verdigris senior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan and Verdigris freshman forward Keara Battenfield were named to the honorable mention squad.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0127web.jpg SOCCER: Lady Zebras ranked 4th in Class 5A poll

    Strong senior leadership and a talented core of underclassmen have kept the Claremore Lady Zebras on a nine-game winning streak since falling in the season opener.
    Senior midfielder Katelin Teter and senior defenders Jentry Cruce and Anna McGuire have the Lady Zebras playing their best soccer in the closing week of the regular season.
    Behind Teter, Cruce and McGuire, as well as other seniors Bailey Bacon and Emily Parkinson, the Lady Zebras (9-1) are currently ranked No. 4 overall in the Class 5A girls soccer state poll.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0181web.jpg BASEBALL: Claremore splits series with Collinsville

    The moment Claremore senior catcher Matt Whatley got thrown out at home plate in the top of first inning, it was downhill for the Zebras.
    Collinsville took advantage of six Claremore errors and erupted for 17 hits to thump the Zebras, 15-2 Friday afternoon in Metro Lakes Conference play.

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • BROWNweb.jpg BASEBALL: Catoosa’s Brown holds off Ft. Gibson

    Nick Brown twirled a four-hitter and Catoosa held firm defensively with the game on the line, powering the Indians to a 4-3 victory over Fort Gibson Saturday on Senior Day.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0216web.jpg RSU's Law silences UT-Permian Basin

    The Rogers State University baseball team dropped game one of a Heartland Conference series at Texas-Permian Basin, 2-0, but battled back to split the twin bill Friday with a 7-1 victory in the night cap.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Mississippi searching for new basketball coach

    Southern Mississippi athletic director Bill McGillis thought basketball coach Donnie Tyndall might not last long as the team kept winning games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Kentucky's Julius Randle enters NBA Draft

    Kentucky forward Julius Randle took a lot of time and talked to a lot of people before deciding to leave after one season for the NBA draft, where he is expected to be among the top five selections.

    April 22, 2014

  • BIG TEN MBB: Illinois player Darius Paul arrested

    University of Illinois police say basketball player Darius Paul faces preliminary charges of resisting a peace officer and unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor.

    April 22, 2014

  • SEC MEN'S BB: Tennessee hires Southern Mississippi's Donnie Tyndall

    Tennessee's coaching position had just become available when Donnie Tyndall received a text message urging him to pursue the job.

    April 22, 2014