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


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.

Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa injures thumb on throwing hand in spring practice opener

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This is not exactly the most optimal way to open the spring for Nick Saban and Alabama.

Shortly before seven p.m. ET this evening, grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, who originally committed to play his last season of college football at Alabama, announced on Twitter that he will instead move on to Washington State.  Not long after that, after the Crimson Tide had completed their first practice of the spring, Saban confirmed that Tua Tagovailoa sustained an injury to the thumb on his right (throwing) hand.  Specifically how he sustained the injury wasn’t clear.

The rising sophomore will be taken to Birmingham for further evaluation; just how long he’ll be sidelined remains to be seen.

Jalen Hurts started every game but one at quarterback the past two seasons, guiding the Crimson Tide to a 26-2 record in that span.  He was under center for the national championship game loss to Clemson, and was in the same spot for this year’s title game against Georgia until a 13-0 halftime deficit compelled Saban to pull the trigger on a change.

And the rest, as they say, is history, as Tagovailoa played a significant role in a second-half comeback that was capped by the true freshman’s game-winning touchdown pass in the first overtime.  Even as it seems obvious to those on the outside that this is Tagovailoa’s team moving forward, given how much more advanced the backup is in the passing game than the erstwhile starter, Saban is not quite ready to pull the trigger on a full-time change at the position.  In fact, the head coach even stated that he’s open to playing both quarterbacks.

Minshew, who started five games at East Carolina last season, was viewed as experienced insurance in case Hurts decided to transfer.  Or, if Tagovailoa suffered an injury.

After committing to Alabama, grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew tweets flip to Washington State

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So much for the implementation of the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™.

In late February, Gardner Minshew, a graduate transfer quarterback from East Carolina, confirmed that he had committed to play for Alabama and would enroll at the university in May.  Nearly three weeks later, Minshew shifted his course significantly, announcing on Twitter that he is “[p]roud to say that I’ll be playing my last year of college ball at Washington State.”

At least when it comes to the opportunity for playing time, the Cougars, looking to replace Luke Falk, make much more sense than the Crimson Tide, who has, in addition to a two-year starter in Hurts, national championship game hero Tua Tagovailoa.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew will be eligible to play immediately for Wazzu in 2018 and could be in line to win a starting job at the Power Five school.

Minshew started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

The news of Minshew’s initial commitment to UA came a little over a week after Minshew visited the Tuscaloosa campus.  Earlier in February, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.

WATCH: Amazon releases trailer for ‘All or Nothing’ season following Michigan

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“All or Nothing” has been Amazon’s answer to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with one clear distinction — “All or Nothing” actually follows its subject throughout the season. The first two seasons followed the Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams, and has now expanded into the college game. Amazon on Tuesday unveiled the trailer for its upcoming season with Michigan, in which its cameras followed Jim Harbaugh‘s Wolverines through an 8-5 campaign where the maize and blue won no games of consequence.

This is not the first such documentary series to follow a college team. Showtime’s “A Season With” has chronicled seasons of Florida State, Notre Dame and Navy.

The upcoming season will hit all Amazon Prime streaming devices on April 6.

Report: Auburn WR Eli Stove undergoes surgery for torn ACL

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A significant development has gone under the radar at Auburn, until now. Junior wide receiver Eli Stove tore his ACL during Auburn’s first spring practice and underwent surgery last Tuesday, according to Brandon Marcello of Auburn Undercover.

As a sophomore in 2017, Stove caught 29 passes for 265 yards and rushed 30 times for 315 yards and two touchdowns, which made him the Tigers’ third-leading rusher.

Stove was expected to increase his portfolio heading into 2018, but now he’ll spend the foreseeable future working simply to get back on the field. No timetable has been set for Stove’s return.

Though Stove is one of Auburn’s most talented pass-catchers, the Tigers aren’t hurting for depth even in his absence. Nine wideouts caught a pass for Auburn last season, and not one of them was a senior.