With a report circulating that Tennessee is set to give Butch Jones a raise and/or extension, Dave Hart met with the local media on Tuesday afternoon, but didn’t have any formal update on that front.
He did say, however, that he and Jones have engaged in those conversations.
“Butch and I communicate, as we do with all of our coaches, on a regular basis,” Hart said when asked if he’d had talks with Jones about a possible extension or raise. “We’ve already opened those conversations and will continue to have those conversations.”
Jones received a raise and extension following a 6-6 campaign in 2014 that put his base salary at $3.6 million plus incentives through the 2020 season. Tennessee made a two-game improvement in 2015, winning the most games since 2007, but also dropping games against Florida, Oklahoma and Arkansas in which the Vols had a two-score lead.
According to the most recent USA Today coaching salary database, Jones is ninth in the SEC in salary among current SEC head coaches behind Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Les Miles, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Dan Mullen, Jim McElwain and Bret Bielema. Jones was also behind Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt and Gary Pinkel during the 2015 season – all of which have since either been fired or resigned from their position.
With seven current SEC coaches now making $3.9 million or more, the market may dictate a bump for Jones, despite some up-and-down moments in 2015.
“We’re in a market-driven industry, like it or not, fair or not, that’s the reality,” Hart said. “We are driven by the marketplace. And this conference, certainly this conference has set the pace relative to what that marketplace looks like. Butch is well-aware of where I stand and how appreciative I am that he is our football coach. Again, we have ongoing conversations, and he knows we’ll address that at the appropriate time and do what is right and fair as it relates to that.”
Jones, when asked if given the opportunity to pursue another head-coaching opportunity for more money, if he would leave Tennessee reiterated that he’s happy in Knoxville.
“I’ve stated it very clearly: Tennessee is a place I want to be,” Jones, who is 20-17 (10-14 SEC) so far in three seasons at UT, said. “My family loves it here, our fanbase has been extremely loyal. All you have to do is look at our fan attendance – I believe we averaged over 100,000 fans for the first time since 2008, our attendance has been up over 11,000 each season. I’m a big believer in loyalty and right now Tennessee is where I’m extremely happy. This is home to me and this is home to my family.”