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With UT in deep financial problems, the Butch Jones hire has to work

Butch Jones AP

The pressure to win and win right away is evident in major college football. But when an athletic department finds itself in the situation like the one Tennessee does, the pressure can be even greater.

The Sports Business Journal released a startling article Monday about the enormous debt, which is more than $200 million, that Tennessee is dealing with right now.

Among the other eye-opening numbers in the piece include the $1.95 million UT currently has in reserves (that’s down from $30 million five years ago and currently ranks as the lowest in the SEC) coupled with the $21 million the athletic department spends annually in debt payments (about two-thirds of which come from the athletic department’s nearly $100 million budget).

You can check out the entire article HERE. It’s astonishing.

There are a lot of reasons why an athletic department would fall on such hard times, but the declining attendance numbers at 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium since the 2005 season coupled with the rising cost of season tickets for a poor on-the-field product would be a good place to start.

“We’ve got to get football healthy,” Vols athletic director Dave Hart told the SBJ.

Tennessee has finished with five wins in four of the past eight years and have never won any more than nine games in a regular season since back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007 under Phillip Fulmer. Since 2005, attendance at UT home football games have gone down an average of about 12,600 fans while season ticket prices have gone up an average of roughly $70 since 2008. There have been three different head football coaches in that span: Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.

Now, the Vols have former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. Though he didn’t have the name recognition of, say, Jon Gruden when he was hired by Tennessee last month, Jones has been successful at Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Personally, I thought that anyone who hired Jones would be getting a getting a tremendous coach.

But the pressure on Jones to win is heightened when you put it into context of Tennessee’s financial woes. In addition to the money the athletic department is moving around just to stabilize itself, the school is expected to pay Jones just under $3 million a year as part of a six-year contract. That’s not an absurd amount of money, but it’s not dirt cheap either. Consider that Tennessee has spent $11.4 million in buyouts for fired coaches recently and that does not include the reportedly $7 million that’s owed to recently fired Dooley and his assistants.

If Tennessee fires Jones before Feb 28, 2014, the buyout would be $4 million. Dooley’s was $5 million.

I don’t foresee that being an issue as I believe Jones will have a lot of success with Tennessee. But if he doesn’t, the result could even costlier to Tennessee.

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22 Responses to “With UT in deep financial problems, the Butch Jones hire has to work”
  1. sanduskyshowerboy says: Jan 28, 2013 3:13 PM

    Don’t shoot- let em burn

  2. dee6634 says: Jan 28, 2013 3:19 PM

    I thought the term was “Winning at all costs?”

  3. Woody Bass says: Jan 28, 2013 3:34 PM

    Guess we know why they had a hard time finding a coach now.

  4. Deb says: Jan 28, 2013 3:39 PM

    Good grief! Haven’t read the SI article yet, but it sounds as though the firings should be happening higher up the food chain than head football coach. The attendance issue alone is unbelievable from a team that worships its football program as much as Tennessee. In case no one’s noticed, the economy has been struggling, and raising ticket prices in East Tennessee–while the team is losing–is not the way to put butts in seats. Who’s making these decisions?

    I know how the contract game is played, but when it comes to buying inexperienced talent like Dooley, maybe football programs need to start playing more conservatively. It’s ridiculous to owe that kind of buyout to coaches who’ve never proved anything on the field.

  5. mhalt99 says: Jan 28, 2013 3:42 PM

    wow! and they don’t even have to pay their workers…er…student athletes.

  6. pricecube says: Jan 28, 2013 3:44 PM

    I do not see a lot of reason for optimism. Jones certainly can talk the talk… but so could Dooley. If you follow recruiting UT is struggling mightily. They are behind at least 10 SEC schools. This coupled with player attrition is a disaster. Seven of the twenty-two players from the 2012 signing class have already left. In order to recruit talent going forward Jones will have to win games and next year looks like another “year zero” rebuild for Tennessee. If he pulls it off he deserves all the credit in the world. I am trying to reserve judgement… but realistically UT has 3 more yrs of 5-6 win seasons before they are looking for a new coach.

  7. pricecube says: Jan 28, 2013 3:45 PM

    @Deb

    Amen… my thoughts exactly on the Dooley buyout.

  8. wwttww says: Jan 28, 2013 4:15 PM

    Rocky Top you’ll always be rock bottom of the SEC…..Good Ole Rocky Top, a joke for all to see!

  9. mydixienormus says: Jan 28, 2013 4:27 PM

    Will the new coach wear those goofy orange pants?

  10. blitz4848 says: Jan 28, 2013 4:48 PM

    Who would of thunk it…..Vandy the face of college football in Tennessee. My oh my how the mighty have fallen………………….

  11. mgavin78 says: Jan 28, 2013 5:14 PM

    100k+ at the game each week and you don’t have $$ lmao.

  12. tuscaloosaguy says: Jan 28, 2013 5:35 PM

    At least they won’t have to change clothes between playing on the weekend and jail time during the week.

  13. superfbfan says: Jan 28, 2013 6:22 PM

    They should just keep raising ticket prices..sounds like the fans aren’t paying their ‘fair share’ lol

  14. jimbo75025 says: Jan 28, 2013 6:23 PM

    Deb says:
    Jan 28, 2013 3:39 PM
    I know how the contract game is played, but when it comes to buying inexperienced talent like Dooley, maybe football programs need to start playing more conservatively. It’s ridiculous to owe that kind of buyout to coaches who’ve never proved anything on the field.
    ———

    Therein lies the issue. Mike Hamilton gave Dooley an extension/raise after his first year-which turned out to be his best. Mr Hamilton was like herpes for the UT AD, the gift that has kept on giving.

  15. cometkazie says: Jan 28, 2013 6:58 PM

    mydixienormus says:
    Jan 28, 2013 4:27 PM
    Will the new coach wear those goofy orange pants?
    +-+-+
    That would be ‘tacky’ MDN. ;)

    I thought SEC football teams were money-making machines! LSU Football evens sends $$$ over to the academic side.

  16. alligatorsnapper says: Jan 28, 2013 7:38 PM

    cometkazie: You are right again. A few months ago the doc from southernpatriots forwarded me an email which suprised me. LSU football was the only college athletic team that obligated itself via contract to pay the LSU General Fund millions of dollars each year off the top and then a percentage of any profits, and I think that percentage was 50 percent. The LSU AD Aleva said something like “it was the least they could do.”

    Sorry to hear of UT financial mess. Overspending and under performing, that sounds like our federal government, doesn’t it?

  17. normtide says: Jan 28, 2013 8:21 PM

    UT has a huge athletic budget, this mess is entirely due to mismanagement. To many pockets lined by but outs.

    As for Jones, time will tell. At UT, you must recruit out of state. Memphis is the only hotbed for talent, and its also very dangerous to recruit there. Memphis is violations waiting to happen. I agree that UT is probably 2 or 3 years from competing at an elite level, and that’s if things fall their way.

  18. minibull says: Jan 28, 2013 8:56 PM

    Mike Hamilton is the main reason for this – he ran off Fulmer and gave him a golden parachute, hired that bastich Kiffen, then panicked and hired the unqualified Dooley with a large buyout. Add in the other sports (paying the former basketball coach Pearl hush money to the tune of millions so he would not sue due to Hamilton’s department telling him to deny everything, hiring then firing the most inept college baseball coach in D1, etc.) and you have a crisis.

    Butch is a very good coach and a winner who now has to deal with a roster that has been absolutely decimated by these rapid fire coaching changes. I think he will do well in the coming years as he recruits better players that fit his scheme. The UT fans will give him time as they know how -another- quick fire/hire would sink the program. Once UT starts winning again, the AD will start giving the academic schools sizable amounts of money (as they did for many years until this year).

  19. clemsonstillsucks says: Jan 28, 2013 10:29 PM

    Deb nailed it. The powers to be at UT cleaned the wrong house.

  20. parkerfly says: Jan 29, 2013 7:15 AM

    mgavin78 says:
    Jan 28, 2013 5:14 PM
    100k+ at the game each week and you don’t have $$ lmao.
    ——————————————–

    Been a while since they had 100k man. Their average attendance this year was 85k.

    Clemsonstillsucks: they already hired a new AD a little over a year ago, it’s gonna take him a while to clean this one up though.

  21. thegamecocker says: Jan 29, 2013 3:18 PM

    I will say this once: Philip Fulmer should never have been fired! His teams were always competitive and certain individuals in the power structure at UTenn got GREEDY!! Well now look what greed has got you! A $30 million pot of gold down to $1.5 million. Really not sure Butch Jones is the answer or not. If not, then the rich alums will have to invest some much needed capital. Also, losing legendary coach Pat Summit as well as Coach Pearl certainly didn’t help matters. Of course, Coach Summits’ issue are health related and I wish her well in her fight against alzheimers disease. Perhaps the greatest college basketball coach ever…..certainly in a class with John Wooden.

  22. cometkazie says: Jan 29, 2013 6:15 PM

    I think you are onto something, GameCocker.

    I disliked Fulmer like many dislike Saban, but he had a good record.

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