New Tennessee coach Butch Jones sat down with govols247 for more than an hour Thursday night for a detailed, wide-ranging, one-on-one interview about the past, present and future of UT football.
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones
Without further ado, here’s Part Four (the finale) of that interview.
govols247: Where do you fall on the patients-versus results debate? I’m sure you won’t admit this, but this program doesn’t seem to be in an ideal place for any coach to step in and win 10-plus games and compete for championships in Year One, but that’s what a good chuck of the UT fan base will expect, just because of that orange Power T on your helmets. You know what the business is like these days, and you know you’re the fourth head coach of this program in the past six years. You did your research. How much did that concern you during the process? And how much explanation did you need from (UT athletic director) Dave Hart about that situation? Let’s not sit here and pretend Neyland has been full for every game the past few years. The morale has seen better days, obviously.
Jones: “Well, I think first of all, I think what’s gone on in the past is the past. I’m very respectful to everyone who’s really worked exceptionally hard for the University of Tennessee, from coach (Derek) Dooley to ... obviously I have a lot of respect for Coach (Phillip) Fulmer. We’ve already met. And there’s Coach (Johnny) Majors, Coach (Doug) Dickey, and I could go on and on. And I’m very respectful of that.
“I understand I’m the caretaker of Tennessee football, but I think that first of all, game-day is something very special that you can’t get, you can’t experience watching it on TV— the Vol Walk, the Vol Navy, all the pageantries that really separate us. So game day is obviously very, very special around college football, especially here in Knoxville, and I understand that.
“I also understand that we live in an instant-gratification society, and everyone wants everything right now. They want instant results. But, you know, I also think this program needs continuity, and it needs consistency. And I think that’s the big thing that this program needs, and I think that’s what we’re gonna bring to it.
“And I think that Dave and everyone else associated with the program understands that, too. There isn’t gonna be anyone who’s more impatient than me, but I also have to make sure we’re gonna do it right?”
Jones (right) with former UT quarterback Erik Ainge (photo courtesy of Erik Ainge)
govols247: What does “doing it right” mean to you, exactly?
Jones: “We’re gonna lay a foundation. We’re gonna lay a culture that once you get it and its set in stone, it’s there. And it’s there for a while. And it’s not going away.
“We have a plan to win. It’s been very successful at every stop. I think one of the benefits we have is this is our third time doing it. And a lot of our staff, this is their third time doing it, so we’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve been through these transitions.
“But we’re gonna work exceptionally hard to win right now — you know, to win right away. But we also know that it’s gonna take a lot of work, and it’s gonna be a process. But the plan to win is there, and we’re gonna work to fulfill that plan each and every day.
“And I know this. We have great commitment from our administration, and everyone’s committed to getting it done. And that’s what excites me.”
govols247: Was meeting with the former players so soon after taking the job part of that process for you? This program has had several fractures over the years, and the former players have felt fractured a few times. Was trying to get them in the fold and on the same page with you and your staff a part of that process for you? I’ve always thought if a coach could get those former players mobilized and on the same page, that network could do wonders for him.
Jones: “Well, you just said it: We are a family. Our former players, our lettermen, are the program. They’re the ones that have laid a foundation. They’re the ones that have really laid the brick, the mortar, and put in all the hard work, all the sweat equity that goes into it. You know, they’re the ones that have built the reputation of this football program.
“Now comes an onus on our current team to uphold the standard and the obligation for all the work that it takes on a day-to-day basis to play football at the University of Tennessee. Our current and future players will understand that.
“Our former players are the program. You look at the success. Walking in that room the other night with former NFL players, former All-Pro players, former All-Americans and great team players that have made a difference in building this program, that’s what it’s all about.
“And that’s a very, very bonded group. You know, we always talk about playing football, that it’s a brotherhood. Once a Vol, always a Vol. Vol For Life. And that’s something that ... that’s not just words. That’s not just a cliche. That’s something that’s gonna be embedded in the fabric and the DNA of our football program.”
govols247: How long would you be able to keep up the pace you’ve kept the past couple of weeks? How much are you able to sleep per night these days? With your family still in Cincinnati, I’ve heard you’re working like a madman.
Jones: “Certainly it’s very challenging. I’m probably sleeping about four hours a day, if I’m lucky. I have a notebook right beside my bed that when I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, I’m taking notes down. My mind is working every day. And it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting.
“I can’t waste any time. We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s been a grind. But it’s been a great grind. It’s something that I enjoy. And we’ll be grinding out. You’ve seen it with all the phone calls and seeing all coaches working around here all the time, and that’s what it takes when you take over a program — especially in mid-December, when recruiting is going at its peak right now.
“You’re sleeping four hours a day, maybe. You’re grabbing lunch and dinner on the run, and you keep going. But I think that’s what makes it exciting.”
govols247: Are you pulling a Phillip Fulmer and bringing a cot into the office to sleep there from time to time? Y’all are gluttons for punishment in this business.
Jones: “A little bit. It happens. But I try to get into a regular bed and at least get a little bit of quality sleep. But the biggest thing is your family. As you know, I’m away from my three children and my wife, and that’s tough. That makes it challenging, but they’re commuting back and forth on the weekends right now.
“We’re gonna look to get the family here as soon as we can and get them established in the Knoxville community.
govols247: With your new income, there’s plenty of great houses on the water in and around Knoxville. I’m just sayin...
Jones: (Smiling.) “Yes, yes there are. Beautiful place.”
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247
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