As Butch Jones turned down job offer after job offer the past few days, it kind of made you wonder if he knew something we didn't.
Thursday night, GoVols247 writer Wes Rucker reported that Jones could possibly soon have a greater opportunity that the three previous jobs he's turned down. Sources told Rucker that the University of Cincinnati head coach is the frontrunner for the University of Tennessee's head coaching job vacated by recently fired Derek Dooley. Rucker also confirmed through five sources that UC has a team meeting scheduled for the morning.
Several unconfirmed reports were surfacing that Cincinnati radio was saying Jones would be the next Tennessee coach.
Rucker has NOT reported that Jones has an offer, however. Volquest.com is reporting that Jones does NOT have an offer right now and has had no face-to-face meetings or formal interviews with UT athletic director Dave Hart. We're certainly not comfortable saying that Jones is going to be UT's next head coach right now and are only going with Rucker's report about him being the front-runner.
This hire [if it happens] is ... perplexing, to say the least. One day after the Vols were reportedly turned down by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Louisville coach Charlie Strong, they turn to Jones, who has been very successful at lower-tier schools, but is not someone who is going to excite anyone.
The 44-year-old Michigan native has never beaten a ranked team. He has an impressive 50-27 career record [including a 2-1 record against Charlie Strong] but has never posed much of a threat to good teams. Last year, he brought a Cincinnati team into Neyland Stadium and lost by three touchdowns to Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Now, it appears he could have the opportunity to coach in Neyland more.
Jones has been a hot name on the coaching circuit this year, reportedly interviewing and withdrawing from the University of Kentucky job,turning down the University of Purdue job and -- last night -- turning down the Colorado University vacancy.
For more on Lyle Allen "Butch" Jones Jr.'s career, here's his Wiki page. It's impressive, even if it's a bit fluffy. Basically, he led Central Michigan to records of 8-6, 8-5 and 11-2 following Brian Kelly, who left to coach at Cincinnati. When Kelly left Cincy for Notre Dame, Jones took over there and has been successful. After a 4-8 debut season, Jones has gone 10-3 [including a victory over Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl] and 9-3. He currently has the No. 53-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
He also has won or shared a conference championship in four of the six seasons he's been a head coach.
Of course, the first thing many Tennessee fans will say if he's hired is that Dooley beat him -- one of the few teams he beat in his forgettable UT career. That's illogical, in my opinion. He is a proven winner, and that's something that Dooley never was. But that doesn't make him a good hire [if it happens], either.
There are several causes for concern, in my opinion, two reasons why I wouldn't have offered him the head coaching job at somewhere like UT.
- The thing that most concerns me is Jones doesn't have any ties to the Southeast, hasn't recruited much here before and only has one coach on his staff with any SEC experience.
- What kind of staff will he have? What kind of money would he have to hire a staff? Who will come coach with him, since he's unproven at the highest level?
- Also, he's followed Brian Kelly at his past two coaching jobs. He's never been in a situation where the "cupboard was bare," so to speak, or there were issues on the team. Both programs he inherited were in good shape, and he kept them there. How will he fare coaching [and recruiting] in the best conference in the country?
Jones is reportedly a great players' coach, and his kids love to play for him. But that doesn't mean he can convince the top athletes to come play for him at UT.
The bottom line was many people said this was the best job on the market this season, and a train wreck of a search could potentially uncover Jones. It's not that Jones is a bad coach -- he may be a great one. It's that this fan base really yearned for a home run, and at the best, Jones is a slap-single through the hole.
At least if he's hired, he'll fit into the "half bear, the other half cat" stuff, won't he?