Even though Tennessee is off to a 3-1 start, things are a little tense in Knoxville these days.
On Monday, two days after the Vols barely edged lowly UMass at home, coach Butch Jones had a contentious moment with the media. A reporter asked Jones about a report that defensive tackle Shy Tuttle, who sat out Saturday’s game with an “undisclosed” injury, had an orbital bone injury stemming from a fight with a teammate.
Jones said Tuttle was injured when he “landed on a helmet.” Jones then launched into a diatribe about the media while inferring that the “drama” surrounding the program is caused by negative coverage. He even got a “fake news” reference in there and showed, frankly, he doesn’t understand the media’s job.
Here’s the video:
And here’s the transcript:
“I think we have to understand what do we want out of our media? This place, with the drama — and again, these are kids, and I think we all have children and we’re all adults. Are we focused on Tennessee football from a recruiting standpoint, from all the positive things we’ve done, from all the positive things this football program brings to the community, this great fan base … are we in the reality world of TV?
“And I think all of us as human beings have to self-check ourselves. And you may not like that answer, but I’m a father. I have three boys. And I think we sometimes have to put ourselves in a role of a parent as well. And I understand you all have jobs to do. My expectations as the head football coach, I’m the caretaker of Tennessee football. I’m here to develop and grow the football program, recruit the best possible student-athletes to represent the University of Tennessee and win football games and graduate our players. That’s my responsibility. I take that very seriously.
“But also, I love our kids and I’m going to protect our players and I’m going to protect our program. And sometimes the negativity is overwhelming. If everyone is Vols fans, how do we let our opponents use this in the recruiting process with fake news? And sometimes, again, we have to check ourselves. What are we here for? What’s our values and principles that guide our life every single day?
“And I appreciate everyone in this room. You guys have a job to do and I’m respectful of that. And I’m friends with a lot of you guys in the room and I appreciate it. But also there comes a certain time where enough is enough. So, thank you. You guys have a great day. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. Go Vols.”
To start, it’s completely understandable that Jones wouldn’t want information about an alleged altercation among teammates or the nature of Tuttle’s injury to get out into the public. But Jones thinking it’s the duty of the media to report with “Will this negatively impact recruiting?” in mind is ridiculous.
Jones has been around long enough — this is his 11th season as an FBS head coach, fifth at Tennessee — to know a reporter’s job isn’t to cater to the coach he or she covers. Reporters aren’t fans — well most aren’t, anyway. Coverage isn’t always going to be positive.
It’s baffling that so many coaches still don’t understand this.
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