Hard work has always been a way of life for Butch Jones. He’s a coach who knows what effort looks like, and he wasn’t seeing enough of it from his team on Monday.
When Jones came in to address the media after practice, his face was red and his voice was nearly gone. It was clear that he had spent his afternoon coaching – loudly. He walked up to the podium to address the media and anyone who has ever coached or been coached knew exactly how he felt about his team’s performance before he said a single word.
Jones knows that his team has a limited number practices left before the start of the season, and he wants to make sure those practices aren’t wasted.
“Our players are competing, we’re just not there yet – in our standards and our expectations,” said Jones. “We can’t waste one single opportunity to improve this football team.”
Jones explained that his past has shaped his mindset when it comes to those standards and expectations. He views himself as the steward of Tennessee football, and he made it clear on Monday that his appreciation for the position must permeate to his team.
“You get to represent the University of Tennessee. There isn’t any better institution in the country, and when you’ve grown up in the division 3 ranks, the division 2 ranks, the Mid-American Conference…When you get to a place like this, it makes you appreciate it that much more.”
To understand the type of effort and sacrifice that Jones expects from his team and why his frustration peeks when he doesn’t receive it, one need only look back at how the coach got started in the profession. Here’s an excerpt from an interview Jones did with FootballScoop.com last year about his path to becoming a head coach in the Southeastern Conference.
“I was a full-time Division III offensive coordinator making $25,000 a year and in order to move up in this profession, I went back to Ferris State, took a part-time job with no benefits making minimum wage for nine months. I had to have a summer job to make ends meet with my family. This is a great profession and it’s an honor and a privilege to coach. Football is life, just sped up a lot faster.
“I think sacrificing, staying the course and when you get that job, no matter where it’s at, you put everything that you have into it. You treat every job as though it’s going to be your last job. You don’t take a job to take the next job. You put everything that you have in that job and you treat it as though it’ll be the only job you have.”
So, when Jones came out after practice and announced to the media that he was revoking the team’s media privileges on Monday, nobody was surprised or upset. He didn’t have to explain himself to anyone – but he did. The coach who had started at the lowest rank and worked his way up to his “dream job” wanted to make sure that his team understood exactly how good they have it.
“At Central Michigan we would meet in cinder-block rooms with no air conditioning, just fans. It would be 110 degrees in there and our offensive line would be losing weight. We had a fundraiser, a bake sale, so we could raise money. Our wives ran it so we could buy extra ice for cold tubs. That’s what I want our players to understand. What you have at the university of Tennessee is very special – never take that for granted.”
Jones said that his team is willing to improve, but that they haven’t yet mastered the type of mental and physical effort that comes with being a championship level team. He knows the onus is on him to make sure his team understands that anything less then 100-percent is unacceptable.
“They’re learning the standards and expectations – and they’ll get it. But as the leader of this football program you can’t accept mediocrity. It will never be accepted here.”
While he understands that coaching a young team inherently comes with frustrations, growing pains and tried patience, Jones said that he will not let his team use their youth as an excuse. On Monday, his message to his team was clear: the standards and expectations will not change moving forward, and there will be consequences when they aren’t met.
“When you walk in the doors of the Anderson Training Center, all focus, all attention – that mental effort, that mental intensity is taking the accountability to be a better football player today,” Jones said. “That’s what we expect and that’s what we will continue to demand.”