Butch Jones’ office in the newly-expanded Neyland-Thompson Sports Center doesn’t have all the accoutrements it’ll have at some point, but Tennessee’s new football coach definitely made sure the Vols’ 1998 national championship trophy and his pictures with current NFL players were some of the first things put in place.
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones
It didn’t take him long to bring up the national-title trophy atop one of the end tables in his massive office’s meeting area — an area with arguably one of the best views in Knoxville, with the UT campus, Neyland Stadium, Thompson-Boling Arena, the Tennessee River and the Great Smoky Mountains all in plain eyesight.
Jones loves all of it. And he really loves looking at that big crystal football atop the 1998 Sears Trophy.
“Looks good, doesn’t it?” he said with a smile.
Most of the area around the ball remains a work in progress, though.
Two big glass bins of sugar-buzzing fun — fruit-flavored candy in one, various chocolate goodies in the other — sit atop the coffee table. A massive HDTV, a satellite DVR box and several pictures of Jones with his family and some former players sits in one corner. A conference table full of the day’s to-be-signed footballs sits in another, until assistant director of football operations Heather Irvin drops by to box them up and ship them to various boosters, schools, charities and several points in between. A glass-doored mini-fridge full of bottled waters and several caffeinated drinks — “anything you can think of,” a UT staffer jokes — sits in a third corner, with the temperature gauge set to a frosty 37 degrees.
Jones spent the better part of an hour-plus interview sipping on a different caffeine source, though. He took several swigs from a hot cup of coffee, which judging by the color seemed to have plenty of cream and sugar.
Whatever Jones is doing, it’s working.
Despite saying he’s been “lucky” to get four hours of sleep per night during his first few weeks at UT, the Vols’ new head football coach doesn’t have large bags under his eyes. The 44-year-old Michigan native looks and acts fit. He wouldn’t be carded when ordering a beer but wouldn’t be able to trick anyone into giving him an AARP discount, either. And he’s definitely not sluggish. Aside from the three times he politely excused himself from the room to take a call from a recruit, he acted incredibly interested in every word that was spoken to him, keeping his eyes locked onto the interviewer as he crossed his legs and shifted which knee to serve as the resting place for his cupped hands.
“I feel great,” Jones said. “It’s such an honor to be here. This is such a special place.”
And it always will be a special place, Jones added.
The past is the past. Jones can’t change that, and he knows it. But that doesn’t bother him. If you tell him the Vols have finished with losing records in each of the past three seasons, he’ll quickly fire back that no program has won more games than UT since 1926.
And the plan, of course, is to start winning again. And soon. And Jones believes that will happen, despite challenges he doesn’t ignore but doesn’t plan to stop him and his program.
He’s won four conference championships in six years as a head coach — three at Central Michigan, and the past three at Cincinnati — and he said that plan will be as “infallible” in the Southeastern Conference as it was in the Big East and the Mid-American Conference if everyone buys into it.
“We have a plan — a great plan, a proven plan — and it works,” Jones said. “The body of work speaks for itself.”
Jones spent plenty of time Thursday night discussing plenty of things in a detailed, wide-ranging interview with govols247. Several stories from that interview will surface in the coming days, but for now let’s get to the nuts-and-bolts news for govols247 subscribers.
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