He’s 2-0 as a head coach in the postseason with bowl wins coming at Central Michigan and Cincinnati in 2009 and 2012, respectively. He has the highest winning percentage as a head coach in bowl games of anybody on Tennessee’s staff. He knows the ins and outs of bowl prep from all angles.
He’s not Butch Jones.
He’s defensive line coach Steve Stripling, who took over as an interim head coach when Jones left the two previous stops before rejoining Jones at the following location. Stripling was perfect in those opportunities, leading the Chippewas to a 44-41 double-overtime win over Troy in the GMAC Bowl in the 2009 season and a 48-34 win over Duke in the Belk Bowl following the 2012 campaign.
But don’t expect Stripling to point that 2-0 record out to Jones, who is 1-2 in three bowl game appearances as a head coach. Stripling knows he couldn’t have done it without Jones setting him up and is grateful for the experience that it gave him
“No,” Stripling said laughing when asked if he ever brings his record up in meetings. “[Jones] gave me those opportunities when he left, so I’m very appreciative of it and it helped me to learn the many hats that a head coach has to wear during a bowl game – all the decisions that have to be made, all those things, so I have great appreciation for what a head coach has to go through.”
Being a head coach has given him some added perspective of how to prepare his guys for the game with the long break, the extra practices, the events and everything else that surrounds the bowl itself.
He’s passing some of that wisdom on, and it’s not all about X’s and O’s – more about how to handle the entire process.
“I actually had a little meeting with my guys today, talking about a bowl game is a great experience,” Stripling said. “You want to have as much as fun and new experiences and do all the things you can do, and yet, it’s different because you’re not in a routine like you are in the season.
“You’re not going to class, you’re not practicing at the same time every single day, so you have to be able to handle change in routine and the underlying message is still 7-6 vs. 6-7. So, let’s go have the best time we can. we as coaches are going to help you have a great time, but at the very top of the pile is winning the game.”
That’s something he’s shown he knows how to do.