Butch Jones’ miserable 2017 season at Tennessee has come to an early end. Tennessee officially fired Jones Sunday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be competitively,” athletic director John Currie said in a statement. “For that reason, I have asked Coach Jones to step down as head football coach. I know Coach Jones will be successful moving forward, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
“Coach Brady Hoke has been named interim head coach. I know Vol Nation will rally around this team and support our student-athletes as they compete the remainder of this season.”
Yes, you read that statement correctly. Former Michigan coach Brady Hoke will serve as Tennessee’s interim coach for games vs. LSU and Vanderbilt. Hoke has been an assistant on Jones’ staff this season after he was fired from his gig as Oregon’s defensive coordinator following the 2016 season.
The news’ of Jones departure was first reported by Sports Illustrated.
Jones’ departure from Tennessee is entirely unsurprising. It’s been a foregone conclusion since October that his job status was tenuous at best. And it’s clear that Tennessee’s 50-17 loss to a Missouri team that started the season 1-5 was the tipping point.
With the Missouri defeat, Tennessee’s most recent games against all 13 other SEC teams is a loss. The Vols are 0-6 in the SEC this season. Thanks to four non-conference wins, a bowl is still in reach. But that would require wins over both LSU and Vanderbilt.
Jones’ Tennessee tenure ends with a 34-27 record. Yeah, it’s above .500, but it’s disappointing for a fanbase with SEC East title expectations and for a coach who routinely hauled in top-15 recruiting classes.
The Vols did finish 9-4 in each of the past two seasons — seasons that Jones infamously called some of the best in the last 20 years of Tennessee football — but neither included a division title. Tennessee hasn’t won 10 games since 2007. That’s was the next-to-last season of Phillip Fulmer’s tenure.
Since parting with Fulmer, Tennessee has employed three different head coaches including Jones, Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin.
The move to part ways with Jones means Tennessee is the second SEC school already looking for a new head coach. Florida parted ways with coach Jim McElwain in October and there could be other schools that decide to make a coaching change too. Along with competition from the SEC, there will likely be a few other Power Five schools who decide to find new coaches.
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