Butch Jones Reportedly Fired as Tennessee Head Coach; Currently 0-6 in SEC

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2017

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 29:  Head coach Butch Jones of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)
Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

The University of Tennessee fired head football coach Butch Jones on Sunday following the Volunteers' 50-17 loss to Missouri on Saturday. Director of athletics John Currie announced the decision:

"I would like to emphasize how much I appreciate Butch and Barb Jones and their sons, Alex, Adam and Andrew. The Jones family has poured their heart and soul into this Tennessee football program and the Knoxville community. We have been fortunate to have Coach Jones lead our program for the last five years. During that time, the program has improved tremendously in the areas of academics, discipline and community involvement.

"Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be competitively. For that reason, I have asked Coach Jones to step down as head football coach. I know Coach Jones will be successful moving forward, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports first reported the news. Currie stated Brady Hoke would serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season:

"An exhaustive search is underway for a person of the highest integrity and character with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships. This search will be my sole focus, and I will be in regular contact with Chancellor [Beverly] Davenport. I want to make clear that we are intensely committed to hiring the best coach for Tennessee."

Jones took over the Volunteers ahead of the 2013 season and finished his tenure with a 34-27 record, including a 4-6 mark this season. In the last three years, he recorded victories in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Outback Bowl and Music City Bowl.

Though the overall results were decent, the 49-year-old Michigan native failed to get the storied program into championship contention in the highly competitive SEC. That led to his downfall after only a handful of seasons in charge.

Jones previously led the Central Michigan and Cincinnati programs after nearly two decades as an assistant. His overall record as a head coach stands at 84-54.

His job status came into question last year after Tennessee failed to capture the SEC East and a berth in the conference championship game following a 5-0 start.

Rhiannon Potkey of the Knoxville News Sentinel passed along comments from Jones last November after the team's senior class graduated without even a division title. His response ended up becoming the focus of numerous jokes.

"These individuals mean a lot to me personally, and they mean a lot to our football program," he said. "When we talked about winning championships...they're a champion. They've won the biggest championship—and that's the championship of life."

The inability to develop coveted recruits into star players was a key reason for Jones' lack of success.

Last year, Barton Simmons of 247Sports delved into the program's "bust problem" and concluded the Volunteers' inability to turn top-100 prospects into key contributors was an issue, as they hit on only about 30 percent of their best players. He wrote:

"Compare Jones' results to the other coaches that were hired during the same cycle as him, and the results don't look any better. Five of Gus Malzahn's eight Top 100 players during those three years are likely to live up to the expectations at Auburn. Bret Bielema only landed four in his first three years at Arkansas, but if you include RB Alex Collins (a fifth-round pick), you can probably call three of those four hits."

All told, the margin for error in the SEC is slim. Not only does it make what Nick Saban accomplishes at Alabama each season even more impressive, but it puts intense pressure on new head coaches in the conference from their first day on the job.

Jones didn't do poorly at Tennessee; he helped the program progress after a period of turmoil following the exit of longtime coach Phillip Fulmer. But he wasn't able to push the team over the championship hump, and it cost him his position.

Now the program will begin the process of trying to find a replacement capable of getting the Volunteers back in the SEC and national title conversations.