With Charlie Strong opting to stay at Louisville, the Tennessee Volunteers have set their sights on another Big East coach: Butch Jones of Cincinnati.
It's been widely reported that Jones either has an offer or will have an offer soon from Tennessee and thus, the job is his if he wants it:
Sources: UT Offers Cincinnati’s Jones: Multiple sources inside the University of Tennessee… goo.gl/fb/0vH3W
— MrSEC (@MrSEC) December 7, 2012
I've also seen many Vol fans scratching their heads as to who this guy is. It reminds me of when the New York Jets drafted Knoxville native Chad Pennington in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft:
Awesome. RT @antonio_tiny74: Could someone educate me on who Butch Jones is? Thanks.
— Brent, Clay & Blaine (@3HL1045) December 7, 2012
With Strong out of the picture—something I readily admit being wrong about—it looks like Jones might be the guy. So who is he?
Butch Jones, 44, started his coaching career at Rutgers in 1990 and has made stops at his alma mater Ferris State and at Wilkes University, West Virginia, Central Michigan and now Cincinnati.
Twice Jones has replaced the vacancy left by Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, once at Central Michigan and again at Cincinnati. People call Jones a "Kelly disciple," which is high praise considering Kelly was just named Coach of the Year.
Jones is without a doubt an offensive mind, having coached running backs, wide receivers and tight ends in addition to being an offensive coordinator throughout his career.
In six years as a head coach, Jones has won an astounding four conference titles in the MAC and Big East. His lone season without a conference championship came in his first year at Cincinnati when a senior-laden team graduated the previous year.
Jones' record as a head coach is 50-27.
One thing Jones either hasn't been able or hasn't had to do is recruit. He has yet to crack the top 40 in recruiting class rankings at Cincinnati, which begs the question: How is he going to recruit in the SEC?
Perhaps the answer is that he'll surround himself with fantastic recruiting assistants. Maybe it's that he doesn't need to recruit to win. Or maybe the answer is that he won't recruit well, and the Vols will flounder for the next five years.
At this point, I rule nothing out.
As far as serious candidates with offers from athletic director Dave Hart, Jones is likely just the fourth. Jon Gruden was a pipe dream, while Mike Gundy was highly unlikely to ever leave his alma mater. Charlie Strong was a legitimate option.
Anyone who claims to know precisely how many offers have been extended is a false prophet. Run in the opposite direction. Hart has conducted this entire process unilaterally, taking the fate of Tennessee football into his own hands.
He knows his job depends on how successful the next football coach is, which is why I don't mind him pulling a Godfather and deciding things on his own with offers no one can refuse.
Hopefully, Jones doesn't join a dubious list of coaches that have found ways to refuse.