Butch Jones Not to Blame for Jay Graham Leaving Tennessee Volunteers

Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIFebruary 26, 2013


As fanbases are wont to do, (some of) the Tennessee Volunteers faithful has lashed out against Butch Jones for the recent departure of running back coach Jay Graham. In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend!"

According to Evan Woodbery of GoVolsXtra, Jones offered to increase Graham's salary from $260,000 to $300,000 upon hearing that the former Vol running back was seriously considering a move to Florida State.

Keep in mind that Jones had already bumped Graham's 2012 under Derek Dooley salary 15 percent from $225,000. The latest offered would've been a full 33 percent increase in salary year-over-year for Graham.

Not bad.

Naysayers correctly point out that even with the original 15 percent increase, Graham was the second-lowest paid assistant on staff, but the $300,000 figure would've had him tied for fourth on the staff in salary for non-coordinators.

Once again, not bad.

Furthermore, students of negotiation know that the first offer is hardly ever the last offer. It stands to reason that Graham could've gotten a few more crooked numbers in to the first half of the salary...if he wanted to.

And that's where this boring salary talk gets interesting.

Graham was a huge part of Tennessee's rebuilding project for 15 months, and Jones had made sure to promote him as the model Volunteer to fans, players and recruits.

As the lone holdover, or "rehiree" as Jones has called him (a compliment), it would be reasonable to assume that Graham felt left out. Jones made sure he was involved with the recruiting, marketing and rallying game, which makes that seem pretty improbable.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Graham didn't leave because of money. Graham didn't leave because he wasn't in the loop. He left because he's a football coach.

And that's what football coaches do.

It's amazing that Tennessee fans have forgotten the revolving door that was Johnny Majors' staff during his tenure. Joe Avezzano, Dom Capers, Kevin Steele (like Graham, a former player), Al Saunders, Larry Marmie, Walt Harris and Ron Zook are literally just a handful of coaches that left while Majors coached the Vols.

If message boards were around back then, I'm sure they would be full of the same vitriol that we see today. And they'd be just as wrong.

Many fans have been waiting for an opportunity to pounce on Jones and think this is their moment. But after seeing what lengths Jones went to make Graham feel welcomed, valued and paid like a quality assistant, there's not much ground for criticism.

Graham's decision wasn't about money or involvement. It was about wiggling his way to the top, which is perfectly fine. To be honest, I think he would've been better off holding one job for a few more years. He's developing a reputation as a school-hopper with eight jobs in 13 years.

Wait a second. It looks like we've found our answer to the question, "Why did Jay Graham leave?"