On Friday the University of Tennessee announced their newest football coach, Butch Jones.
Reaction was mixed to say the least. As the news has settled in and Butch Jones has had a chance to interact with players and fans, there seems to be a more positive vibe around the decision. That was not the case in the first 24 hours. There are a million reasons for the negativity. Fans went crazy with the Grumors (silly in retrospect). Fans just want someone they know (which is really tough considering there are less than 10 high profile coaches that the average fans really know much about). Fans want a proven winner (but then when they get one they shoot holes in his accomplishments). Here are three popular questions I've seen or heard asked from the Rocky Top faithful in recent days. Perhaps the answers will make you feel better about Butch Jones. Perhaps they won't. Regardless, we have 9 long months before we find out who and what we have leading the Big Orange.
1. Sure he won games, but that was the MAC and the Big East. Can a guy who hasn't done it in the SEC win in this league?
In short, YES! Nick Saban had a similar record to Jones when he took the job at LSU. Not a single of Saban's wins was in the Southeastern Conference. Les Miles had a similar record to Jones when he took LSU. Not a single of Miles' wins was in the Southeastern Conference. Mark Richt was a successful coordinator before taking the Georgia job, but he had never led his own team and had never spent a single game calling plays in the Southeastern Conference. When looking at Butch Jones' resume through that lens, it doesn't make his 50 wins and 4 conference titles in 6 years as a head coach so bad, huh?
2. Okay, so he won some games. Recruiting is a whole different animal in the SEC. Can Butch Jones recruit the South?
It remains to be seen. There are signs that indicate Jones can not only recruit the South, but he can do so very successfully. Of the current Cincinnati freshmen and sophomores, 21 are from SEC states. 13 of those 21 are from Florida. Does that mean Jones can go in and win a battle head to head with Muschamp or Saban or Richt? Not necessarily. But let's not pretend like the dude spend every recruiting visit in Cleveland or Philly or Washington D.C. just because he coached in the Big East. Honestly, Tennessee needs to revive their once strong recruiting roots in talent-rich Ohio. Perhaps Jones can do just that.
3. The Tennessee fans have been divided on every coaching hire since Johnny Majors. Maybe Jones is a good hire, but does he unify the fanbase?
With all due respect, who cares? A coaching hire shouldn't be made or not made based on the emotional reaction of any fanbase. Certainly not a jilted, angry, and tired fanbase like Tennessee's. Look, winning the press conference hasn't won any games for any team....ever. Derek Dooley won his press conference, but then he proceeded to lose a lot of games. Lane Kiffin won his press conference and he proceeded to put Tennessee under sanctions and bolt as soon as he could. I, for one, am tired of winning press conferences. I am ready to win a game that matters. Maybe Butch Jones turns the Tennessee program around. Maybe he doesn't. Either way, Tennessee fans feeling unified on message boards is not the right reason to hire any coach.
So, whether you like the hire or not, Butch Jones is a proven winner as a head coach. Whether or not your buddies who are Georgia or Bama or Florida fans are intimidated by Jones is wildly irrelevant.
If Butch Jones has half the success at Tennessee that he has at Central Michigan and Cincinnati then he will have won 2 conference titles in 6 years. I'd take that at this point. Wouldn't you?