Tennessee athletic director John Currie took to the podium following his decision to move on from head football coach Butch Jones. Currie kept most things close to the vest, but offered some details about what he’s looking for in the next coach and how things developed during the past few weeks.
“All of our searches will start with integrity,” Currie said. “We are committed to doing things the right way. If you look at the improvements in our program — you see the APR and the involvement of our student-athletes in the community. Those are prerequisites. We expect our coach to have the dynamics that would enable him to lead us to where Tennessee football can and should be.”
Currie was asked about the report that Butch was already trying to steer recruits away from Tennessee. He said, “I find that speculative stuff silly. I trust Butch Jones and his character.”
That question stemmed from this article, which accuses Jones of telling Tanner Ingle to “find a place to go, quickly.” Our own Evan Winter already tackled this today in his post.
When asked of the timing of the firing, Currie said “I believed that throughout the season — even though there were moments of frustration, but there were also moments of optimism. I wanted to give our coaching staff and student athletes the best possible chance to be successful.”
“Coach Jones and I met this morning. We came to a mutual decision about the last couple of games. I believe it’s the right decision,” Currie said.
There’s a new wrinkle this year, as I’ve noted plenty. The new early signing period may speed things along here. Currie spoke of that, saying “The early signing period is new. It’s uncharted territory for everyone. It’s a variable that’s new, but the core values remain the same.”
Currie said that he would not use a search firm during this process.
Brady Hoke will serve as the interim head coach for the final two games of the season. Currie praised his past, saying that he was the appropriate choice. “Brady Hoke is a three time conference coach of the year in three different conferences. He’s won at the highest level. He was a very appropriate choice.”
Currie was then asked about his stipulations of making a hire — specifically about experience. “We need to hire the best coach for the University of Tennessee,” Currie said. “We need to hire someone that understands the magnitude of being the football coach at the University of Tennessee.”
“We know that we have the resources to make the right decision to select the next leader of our football program. I understand what is at stake. We’re fortunate that Coach Jones and his staff changed the culture academically. We sit here with our highest APR scores in football history. That makes things better for the next staff,” Currie said.
Currie said that he and Butch Jones “had a very professional interaction” as Currie gave Jones the news. “He cares about his student athletes, coaches and this University.”
“We’re standing here right now because we haven’t won enough,” Currie said.
The Tennessee AD said that he would not comment on rumors or candidates at this time, or during the coaching search. A question about Jon Gruden was snuck in, but Currie smirked and dodged.
“The old days of having someone for 15 or 20 or 30 year just don’t really exist anymore,” Currie said. “Transition is part of our enterprise. Preparedness for transition is part of my job.”
I’d bet Currie didn’t expect to be in this situation right now, but here we are. He is officially on the clock. Football hires define athletic directors. We’ll see what Currie has up his sleeve in the coming weeks.