Tennessee is preparing to rebuild their program brick by brick, once again. Following yet another dismal performance in SEC play, Tennessee will reportedly cut ties with head coach Butch Jones. Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated was among the first to report the development out of Knoxville, via Twitter. Chris Low of ESPN added Brady Hoke will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
The news comes one day after Tennessee lost at Missouri, 50-17. The loss dropped the Vols to 4-6, putting them on the brink of being eliminated from postseason contention. Tennessee is now 0-6 in SEC play with LSU and Vanderbilt remaining in conference play. Hired at the end of the 2012 season, Jones had coached Tennessee to a 34-27 record in the span of five years with some highly-rated recruiting classes along the way with a bowl record of 3-0, but the Vols were clearly heading in a downward spiral despite back-to-back 9-win seasons the past two seasons. A trend of either not being able to live up to expectations and becoming a program running on gimmicks like catchphrases, life championships, and sideline trash cans had led Tennessee to be disrespected from within and from outside. But the results on the field ultimately matter the most, and Jones and Tennessee had established quite the disturbing trends on the field.
During Jones’ run as head coach of the Vols, Tennessee appeared to have a wide-open window to take advantage of the struggles of their division opponents. Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Vols were never able to seize the division at a time when Florida was going through some struggles and Georgia had their hiccups. Tennessee failing to capture a division crown despite the lofty expectations and solid recruiting classes became the ultimate failure of the program, and now Jones is left paying the price for those missed opportunities.
Where Tennessee goes from here should be wildly entertaining as they now join division rival Florida on the lookout for a new head coach. The Tennessee job should be an attractive one and the right coach should be able to get things turned around relatively quickly.
The Tennessee job is now the third coaching opening in the SEC. In addition to Tennessee and Florida, Ole Miss will also be looking to hire a new head coach after cutting the cord with Hugh Freeze before the start of the season.