On Tuesday morning local radio station Fox Sports Knoxville released an interview with former Vols linebacker Chris Weatherd. Let’s just say no topic was off limits during the hour long conversation.
You can find the full interview below in case you missed it.
Austin Sanders Sits Down With Former Vol Linebacker Chris Weatherd For An Interview About The Butch Jones Era [Explicit]https://t.co/jpNWcAzY2L— FOX Sports Knoxville (@FOXSportsKnox) July 21, 2020
In a world devoid of any actual live sports to discuss it’s just this kind of tell-all interview that satiates our collective appetite for content. Many former players, however, didn’t appreciate Weatherd’s comments.
This exactly why y’all not gettin no interviews out me or none my brothas . come on fam this ain’t the way to do it AT ALL . smh talk bout yourself if you wanna do all this come on man https://t.co/3BDfCSVzBQ— Kahlil McKenzie Jr. (@Kahlil_Mckenzie) July 21, 2020
Bruh want all the attention in the world. Straight bro. What do you gain from this? https://t.co/CtmhioSU5r— Kendal Vickers (@DreadHead_Vick) July 21, 2020
Regardless of truth, having some awareness that just because fans want to hear it doesn’t mean it promotes the well-being of the university.— Thomas Edwards (@bigtpedwards) July 21, 2020
After listening through the interview, and reading much of the reaction on Twitter, I came away with two observations that I believe are worth unpacking in more than 280 characters.
Observation #1: No player has denied the accuracy of the details Weatherd provided.
A defensive coordinator publicly disrespected the head coach. Talented players were given preferential treatment. The “bag man thing” is “definitely real.” These are just a few of the details given throughout the course of the interview. And, despite all of the push back on Weatherd, no one has denied these statements — or any others.
That’s not to say that everything he claimed in the interview is fact. Weatherd played for the Volunteers for the 2014 and 2015 seasons after transferring from junior college. It’s reasonable to assume there is truth behind many of his statements, particularly of those that took place during the time that Weatherd was on the team.
The issues many players have are two-fold. For one, his comments paint the Tennessee Football program they love — we all love — in a bad light. I don’t think it would surprise many college football fans to hear of programs seeking every possible avenue to compensate their players. But, it’s quite another thing to hear a former player admit to “bag men” being “real.”
Secondly, Weatherd provided details of many events for which he was not present. For example, Weatherd touches on the infamous Shy Tuttle helmet story. Hardly anyone believes that Shy Tuttle actually landed on a helmet resulting in an orbital bone fracture as Butch Jones claimed. The popular rumor surrounding that incident has been that Tuttle got in a fight with a teammate in the locker room. Weatherd seemed to confirm that rumor during his interview stating, “Shy got his ass whooped.” The thing is, Weatherd wasn’t a part of the football program in 2017 when the alleged incident occurred. He wasn’t present for the event — whether it was a fight or a fall — so at best he is passing along a story that he heard, a story that might not be his to tell.
In my opinion the former players speaking up today against Weatherd have a legitimate gripe. This isn’t about trying to sweep past events under the rug. Dedicated fans are largely familiar with many of the stories recalled by Weatherd, anyway. A football team is a brotherhood, and I can see why this brotherhood might feel betrayed that a former teammate aired out all of the dirty laundry.
Observation #2: It’s time to move on from Butch Jones.
I’m as guilty of not doing this as anyone. Every time I see a team utilize 20-personnel formations I get irritated that we didn’t do this more with Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, and Joshua Dobbs. Then, I get on Twitter and I complain about it. Every time I see a team kick a field goal from the 1-yard line I think about the Oklahoma game, or the Tennessee Tech game — the one when Jones was caught on camera allegedly saying “F*** all of [the booing fans]” —, and my blood pressure rises to an unhealthy level.
But, it’s time to move on.
Jones wasn’t a great fit at Tennessee and it all came crumbling down in 2017. Ultimately, he’s had the last laugh. Tennessee has paid him roughly $206,000 every month for going on three years to not coach the Vols as part of his buyout. He’s smoked a victory cigar in the visiting locker room of Neyland Stadium while riding the coattails of the greatest college football coach of all time. We’ll likely never know for certain all of the scandalous details of Jones’ tenure as Tennessee head coach, and that’s OK.
Coach Pruitt said it best following Tennessee’s Gator Bowl win over Indiana: “This is going to be the decade of the Vols.” It’s time we shift our focus to the heights the Vols will achieve this coming decade, which will be much higher than anything we’ve seen from the previous decade.