John Currie spoke to the media on Sunday afternoon to officially kick off the Vols search for a head football coach.
Currie highlighted the qualifications he’s looking for in Tennessee’s next head coach. And he also gave an important recruiting pitch to potential student athletes looking at the University
“We’re standing here right now because we haven’t won enough,” Currie said.
Currie also pointed to the improvement of the Vols’ program under Jones.
“Late last night it was evident that this was the direction we needed to go…we want Coach Jones and his family to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. None of us want to be in this position, but we are.”
The Next Coach
Currie outlined what he’s looking for in his next head football coach at Tennessee. He didn’t specifically say that he wanted someone with only head coaching experience, however.
“There’s a number of different elements,” Currie said. “We all know that our conference continues to become more competitive. We are fortunate that Coach Jones and his staff changed the culture from an academic perspective.
“If you look at our program, and the improvement of our program under Coach Jones, certainly we expect our coach to have the dynamics that will be able to lead our program where Tennessee should be.”
Currie will not hire a search firm as he looks for the Vols’ next coach.
“I would also say that upstairs on the fourth floor we have some great people. Men and women who have worked hard to improve the Tennessee football program…I have tremendous respect and appreciation for those people…they are focused and dedicated to our football program,” he said.
Impacts of an Early Signing Period
The early signing period will change things for the next head coach. For the first time, athletes will be able to sign with a program earlier than the first Wednesday of February. The early signing period begins on December 20th.
Currie was aware of that factor. But this decision was specifically made to help the current student athletes.
“Any decisions we make affect student athletes and our staff. We’ll always make decisions at the time that we make them with those decisions in mind.,” Currie said.
That being said, it is an interesting talking point for Currie. He specifically mentioned how difficult it will be to maneuver around the early signing period in order to find his next coach.
“The early signing period is new and is uncharted territory for all of those involved,” Currie said. “Ultimately, we have to make the decision based on the University of Tennessee student athletes here right now…it certainly is a variable that’s new. The core values in how we make decisions are the same.”
Rumors surfaced today that Jones was calling recruits in order to persuade them to de-commit and join him at a new stop. Currie shot that down.
“I find that kind of speculative stuff silly. I trust Butch Jones and his character,” Currie said.
Making the Decision
So, why now? Currie said that he made the decision to relieve Coach Jones late last night following the Vols’ loss to Missouri. He also added that the choice to part ways with Jones before the final two games of the season was a “mutual decision.”
“We came to a mutual decision about the last couple games. I believe it’s the right decision for all concerned,” he said.
Currie could have pulled the trigger weeks ago. Maybe when the Vols were shutout against Georgia. Or possibly following a rare road loss to Kentucky. But Currie stuck by Jones.
Until Saturday night, he believed Butch gave the Vols their greatest chance to win.
“There were moments of frustration and moments of optimism…I believed that our best chances to win were with Butch Jones in charge,” he said.
Currie said specifically that he won’t be using a search firm to find his next head coach. He’s relying on his team to find the best man for the job.
“I’m very fortunate and blessed. We’ve got a great team that loves and serves the university. This is my sole focus. We also have a lot of other things going on…we’ve got a soccer team in the NCAA Tournament…so I’ll lean on my entire staff to carry on the day-to-day operations of the football program,” he said.
UT’s athletic department is in a good place financially according to Currie. He doesn’t see money being an issue for the Vols’ search moving forward.
“We can always use some more (money) around here, but we know we have the resources to select the next leader of this football program. I understand the enormous responsibility that comes with this.”
One former Tennessee coach may play a big role in this search. Phillip Fulmer, who joined the University payroll over the summer, will be an important part of the search.
“Coach Fulmer is an extraordinary resource,” Currie said. “I regularly talk to him about various aspects of the program. I called him this morning after meeting with Coach Jones.”
Currie confirmed that Brady Hoke will take over as the interim head coach for Tennessee’s program.
“Brady Hoke is a three time conference coach of the year,” he said. “I gave him the opportunity to serve…I appreciate his leadership and selflessness at this time.”
Currie also threw out Steve Stripling as an important coach for Tennessee moving forward.
Tennessee will host the 1997 SEC Championship Vols for an alumni gathering this weekend. Coach Hoke leads UT into a prime time match-up with LSU on Saturday in Neyland Stadium. The Vols are a loss away from being eliminated from bowl contention this season.