Tennessee began the season in the Top 25 and is ending it with a coaching change.
Multiple news outlets are reporting that Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones informed his players today that he has been fired as their coach.
The Vols' latest setback, and apparently the final straw for athletic director John Currie, was Saturday's embarrassing 50-17 blowout against Missouri. The team also lost to SC and Kentucky (just their second loss to the Wildcats in 33 years) before getting a non-conference respite against Southern Miss. Brady Hoke will serve as interim head coach for the rest of season.
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"An exhaustive search is underway for a person of the highest integrity and character with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships". Jones was making $4.11 million per year at Tennessee. He's owed about $8.25 million in buyout money, according to the terms of his contract, although he's required to seek comparable employment to mitigate the damages. Jones was 0-13 at Tennessee against teams ranked in the top ten - and the Vols were outscored 491 to 183 in those 13 games.
Tennessee was not expected to win the SEC East, but they were projected to be competitive in the division with Georgia and Florida. Missouri (5-5, 2-4) scored five Saturday night and the loss dropped Tennessee into a last-place tie with Vandy in the East. All of Jones' assistants are under contract through next season.
Tennessee hasn't reached the SEC championship game since 2007 and hasn't won a conference title since its 1998 national championship season.
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Jones' resume in Tennessee is more impressive than you might expect with the way the fans have run him out of town. The Vols went 5-7 his first season and improved to 7-5 in his next year to return to a bowl.
The major off-field issue during Jones' tenure was a Title IX lawsuit filed against the school previous year by eight unidentified women accusing Tennessee of having a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. He can certainly provide a steadying hand, drawing on previous head coaching experience at Ball State, San Diego State and MI.
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