KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WATE) – Reports indicate Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones has been fired as the head coach at the University of Tennessee.
According to Fox college football reporter Bruce Feldman, Jones told his staff early Sunday morning that he had been relieved of his duties. Jones was in his fifth year as the coach of the Vols.
In a letter on Sunday, Tennessee athletic director John Currie said that he met with Jones on Sunday morning and informed the coach of his decision that he step down.
“Transitions like this are never easy for anyone involved, and I am grateful for the way Coach Jones, Barb and their children have poured their hearts and souls into this community and the improvement of our football program over the past five years,” wrote Currie. “I know that Tennessee fans join me in thanking Coach Jones and his family for the many facets of our program which have improved under his leadership.”
UT chancellor Beverly Davenport took to Twitter on Sunday to express her gratitude to Jones, as well.
Tennessee will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. on campus to discuss Jones’ firing and the coaching transition.
Defensive line coach Brady Hoke will serve as the interim head coach for the last two games of the season as the Vols try to become bowl eligible. Tennessee hosts LSU on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Neyland Stadium. On Sunday afternoon, many fans turned to Twitter, posting the hashtag #FillNeyland. The hashtag #EmptyNeyland was a hot topic as the Vols prepared to take on Southern Miss a few weeks ago.
Jones’ firing comes after Tennessee’s 50-17 loss to Mizzou on Saturday night. That loss dropped Tennessee to 0-6 in the conference and 4-6 overall.
With the loss to the Tigers, the Vols now have an active losing streak to every team in the SEC. The Ferris State alum ends his tenure at Tennessee with a 34-27 record overall, and a 14-24 mark against SEC opponents. Jones was 0-13 at Tennessee against teams ranked in the top ten – and the Vols were outscored 491 to 183 in those 13 games.
Jones was under contract through February 2021. An analysis of his contract shows he was owed $8 million if he was fired. A review of his contract revealed that if Jonesfinds a new job in sports, his new salary would be subtracted from the buyout payments.
Jones was hired to coach the Volunteers in December 2012, following the team’s three losing seasons under Derek Dooley. Prior to his stint at Tennessee, Jones was the head coach at the University of Cincinnati from 2010 to 2012. He was also the head coach at Central Michigan from 2007 to 2009.
Thrilling Wins, Crushing Defeats
The Vols had several signature wins under Jones, including thrilling come-from-behind victories over Georgia in 2015 and Florida in 2016, as well as a last-second defeat of Georgia in 2016 on a Hail Mary by senior quarterback Josh Dobbs. He also led the Vols to three consecutive bowls from 2014-2016.
Unfortunately for Jones, his time at Tennessee was also marred by an array of bad losses, including a 24-21 defeat at the hands of South Carolina in 2016 and a 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt later that season. The loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville cost the Vols a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Jones ends his time in Knoxville without a win over Alabama’s Nick Saban or Will Muschamp during Muschamp’s stints at Florida and South Carolina.
The Wheels Come Off
But it was the 2017 season that proved to be Jones’ undoing. After a nail-biting overtime win against Georgia Tech in Atlanta to kick off the season, the Vols came home to Neyland Stadium and handily beat Indiana State 42-7. They lost a heartbreaker to Florida in The Swamp, before returning home to squeak out a win over UMass, 17-13. Little did the Vols know that their pair of second quarter touchdowns against the Minutemen would be their last for over a month.
The Vols were pounded by Georgia 41-0, the team’s worst loss in decades. The Vols dropped their next two games against South Carolina and Alabama, then headed up I-75 to Kentucky, where they lost in the final minutes, 29-26.
Tennessee beat Southern Miss for their fourth win of the year, but followed that victory with a 50-17 loss to Missouri in what would ultimately be Jones’ last day at UT.
Jones did find success on the recruiting trail. His first class was ranked 21st in the nation, but he was able to sign the fifth-best classes in 2014 and 2015, according to VolQuest.com.
He followed that with the 15th-best classes in the country in both 2016 and 2017.
The Volunteers currently hold the seventh-best recruiting class for 2018, although it will be up to Jones’ replacement to hold those recruits for next season.
In the Classroom
Tennessee had some of its best success in school history in the classroom under Butch Jones. When single-year academic progress report scores were released in May, the Vols had a program-best 972 multi-year score. That number was up 16 points from 2016, 27 points from 2015 and 40 points from 2014. The APR score measure student athletes’ academic progress.
A variety of names have been thrown around to replace Jones as the 24th coach of the Volunteers, including former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino and Memphis head coach Mike Norvell.
By the Numbers
Jones’ year-by-year record at Tennessee is:
2013: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
2014: 7-6 (3-5)
2015: 9-4 (5-3)
2016: 9-4 (4-4)
2017: 4-6 (0-6)
Jones’ record against each SEC school during his tenure in Knoxville is as follows.
Mississippi State 0-0
Ole Miss 0-1
Texas A&M 0-1
South Carolina 3-2
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