The search for the next head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is getting started, and the first stop on the tour of candidates is going down to Alabama to see a former Tennessee head coach.
According to a report from James Kratch from NJ.com, Rutgers interviewed former Tennessee head coach and current Alabama offensive analyst Butch Jones for their vacant head coaching position. Jones is the first candidate to interview for the position according to the report.
Rutgers fired head coach Chris Ash after a 1-3 start to the 2019 season, losing in blowout fashion to Iowa (30-0) and Michigan (52-0) along with a 30-16 loss to Boston College sandwiched in between. Ash was just 8-32 in his three-plus seasons as head coach. The Scarlet Knights promoted right ends coach Nunzio Campanile to interim head coach, and Rutgers has gone 1-3 under Campanile so far.
Jones was fired as Tennessee’s head coach in November of 2017 in the midst of the Vols’ worst season in program history. Tennessee was 4-6 and 0-6 in SEC play under Jones in 2017 before he was let go after a 50-17 road loss to Missouri. The Vols finished 4-8 and 0-8 in conference play that season, marking the first eight-loss season in school history and the program’s first winless SEC season ever.
The former Tennessee head coach has been an offensive analyst on Nick Saban’s staff since 2018. He coached the Vols for nearly five full seasons, going 34-27 overall but only 14-24 in the SEC.
Jones has ties to the northeast and in areas closer to New Jersey. The 51-year-old analyst served as a grad assistant for Rutgers from 1990-92 and was born in Saugatuck, Michigan. He coached as an assistant for three years at Central Michigan before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2001. He served in that role till being dropped back to running backs coach in 2004. He was named the head coach of Central Michigan in 2007 and then took the head coaching gig at Cincinnati. Tennessee hired Jones in December of 2012, and his first season as the Vols’ head coach came in 2013.
If Jones ends up getting hired as the head coach for Rutgers, the buyout money Tennessee owes him will be mitigated by whatever salary the Scarlet Knights pay him. Right now, the Vols still owe Jones the remainder of his contract that originally ran through February 28, 2021. Jones’ buyout in November of 2017 was $8.2 million, and UT would pay him in monthly installments through the end of February of 2021.
Rutgers has been a bottom-feeder school in the Big Ten for the last few years. Since Kyle Flood led the Scarlet Knights to a 40-21 victory over North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl in 2014 to finish 8-5, Rutgers hasn’t had a winning season. In fact, they’ve plummeted into obscurity.
The Scarlet Knights went 4-8 in 2015, and Flood departed to the NFL for two seasons to serve as the Atlanta Falcons’ assistant offensive line coach. Flood is now the offensive line coach for Alabama. Rutgers hired Chris Ash, and the Knights went 2-10 in his first season, 4-8 in his second, and 1-11 in his third. Right now, the Scarlet Knights are 2-6 in 2019.