After four-plus seasons as Tennessee’s head football coach, Butch Jones no longer holds that title.
Butch Jones has reportedly been fired as the Vols’ head football coach on Sunday following a 50-17 loss to Missouri. The Vols are currently 4-6 this season and are a winless 0-6 in SEC play.
Jones’ earned a 34-27 record in his four-plus seasons as the Vols’ head football coach. When Jones took over as head coach, Tennessee was arguably at the lowest point in program history. Jones was the Vols’ fourth head coach in six years when he was hired in 2013, and Tennessee hadn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2007 at that point.
Tennessee went 5-7 in Jones’ first season for their third consecutive 5-7 season. Jones’ second squad saw improvement and went 7-6 with a blowout victory over Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl.
After two rebuilding years, Jones’ Vol squads finally started competing in big games again. But second half collapses against Florida, Oklahoma, and Arkansas cost Tennessee victories in 2015, but a comeback victory over Georgia helped salvage the season. The Vols would win six straight games after losing 19-14 to Alabama to finish 9-4 in 2015, earning the most victories for the program since 2007.
Then the 2016 season came, and that’s when the wheels fell off.
The Vols entered the 2016 season as favorites to win the SEC East. And after ending an 11-year losing streak to Florida and defeating Georgia on a Hail Mary to improve to 5-0, Tennessee looked well on their way to doing just that.
But Tennessee would collapse down the stretch, losing in two overtimes to Texas A&M, getting routed at home by Alabama, then losing to South Carolina off a bye week. That loss proved to be the reason the Vols didn’t win the East. Tennessee would then win three straight games before dropping their regular season finale against Vanderbilt to cost themselves a chance at a Sugar Bowl.
Butch Jones led the Vols to another 9-4 season in 2016. But that 9-4 season felt much different than the 9-4 season in 2015, and Jones’ seat began to heat up.
After a thrilling overtime victory over Georgia Tech and handling FCS opponent Indiana State, hopes were relatively high in Knoxville about the 2017 Vols. But a last-second loss to Florida on the road, an ugly and uninspired win over winless UMass, an embarrassingly historic loss to Georgia, another loss to South Carolina off a bye week, and an 11th consecutive loss to Alabama soured the season.
Then came losses to Kentucky and Missouri in embarrassing fashion. And those were the final straw for Jones.
And all that along with plenty of other factors caused Jones’ time to come to an end at Tennessee.
Jones finishes his Tennessee tenure with losing records against all three of the Vols’ major opponents. Jones was just 1-4 against Florida, 2-3 against Georgia, and 0-5 against Alabama.
Yes, Jones helped the Vols end their losing streak against Florida. Yes, Jones helped lead Tennessee to three consecutive bowl victories. Yes, Jones helped raise expectations at Tennessee again. But Jones was also just 2-2 against Vanderbilt, 3-2 against South Carolina, and was just 9-14 in one-score games with the Vols. He also lost to Kentucky, something Tennessee football almost never does, and he lost to every SEC East team he faced. He was also just 14-24 in conference play.
And now the Vols also have a losing streak to every team in the SEC.
Jones helped rebuild the Vols’ football program. When he took over, Tennessee was in bad shape, both on the field and off. Jones helped replenish the talent on the field and was a large part in helping the Vols’ academic situation improve as well.
But at the end of the day, Jones simply didn’t win enough or against the teams that mattered most. And at a program like Tennessee, that doesn’t cut it in the long term.