By Steve Williams
I’ve heard reports University of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart will be giving head football coach Butch Jones a contract extension and pay raise this week.
From a financial standpoint, wouldn’t it make more sense to wait and see how Jones’ team does in its bowl game later this month before getting out the check book?
The outcome of the bowl game will determine whether the 6-6 Vols have a winning or losing season. That should make a difference in Jones’ compensation.
What’s the hurry? Butch reportedly said last week he wasn’t going anywhere when the opening at Michigan was mentioned. He said he and his family loved being at Tennessee and he was looking forward to tasting the fruits of his labor.
As it is, Jones’ current contract already allows him a $100,000 bonus and the entire coaching staff a $366,000 bonus for just getting the Vols in a bowl game. I don’t think that’s right, either. He and his assistants should be rewarded a bonus if they win a bowl game.
I know. Hart’s way is the way it’s done in major college football everywhere. That don’t make it right.
There should be an incentive for coaches to win. These games are important. They’ll be keeping score.
Years ago, national champions were crowned in college football at the end of the regular season and results of bowl games didn’t factor into it.
Tennessee’s 1951 team went undefeated in the regular season and was the national champion even though it lost to Maryland 28-13 in the Sugar Bowl. That’s the way it was back then. Thank goodness that’s changed.
With the regular season over, Butch Jones got graded last week, too. On one local radio sports talk show, fans’ grades for Jones were totaled and averaged out to a C plus. That surprised me. I thought it would be higher, because Jones seems to be well liked overall by the Tennessee fan base.
There must be more doubters in this fan base than I first thought.
After two seasons, I think Jones has improved the Tennessee football program. But it had a whole lot of room for improvement.
Jones has excelled in some areas. His recruiting classes have been ranked among the best in the nation, but I think we need to put a greater emphasis on recruiting more linemen. Blocking and tackling is still very, very important in this game.
Butch has mended torn relations with former players and high school coaches in the state. But not allowing local high school teams to play their preseason jamboree in Neyland Stadium, I thought, was a mistake.
Jones’ players have played hard and there’s been no sign of quit in them. They’ve been competitive in every game.
His players also have done a good job in the classroom, and for the most part have represented the program and university in a first-class manner.
When there have been discipline issues, Jones has dealt with them quickly and fairly and with the best interest of the program in mind. All players are treated equally too, no matter where they stand on the depth chart. That’s a welcome change over the last regime.
Butch has made great strides in building the roster, putting better talent on the field and increasing depth. These areas should continue to get stronger with solid recruiting classes.
Tennessee shouldn’t have had to go down to the wire against Vanderbilt to become bowl eligible. That should have been settled long before.
I think the Vols could have been a lot better on offense and won more games this season.
Jones’ zone-read offense and quarterback Justin Worley didn’t fit. If he was going to keep the zone-read attack in place, Joshua Dobbs was the QB for it.
If he wanted to go with Worley, he should have installed a pro-style offense.
Now for the really bad news.
Choosing to red-shirt his best zone-read quarterback could very well have cost Tennessee wins this season over Georgia and Florida. The Vols could have been playing for first place in the SEC Eastern Division standings when Missouri came to town.
Butch tends to be stubborn, in my opinion. He wouldn’t change his offense. He wouldn’t admit he was wrong to not play Dobbs all along. He was even reluctant to praise Dobbs for his play against Alabama and South Carolina, when the rest of Vol Nation was jumping up and down with excitement.
An extension? A raise? Has Jones really earned it?
I say yes, but only if Tennessee wins its bowl game.