Can Tennessee find a Coach with a Vol’s Connection?
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
It was an unspoken secret that Butch Jones was on the hot seat as the coach for the Tennessee Volunteers. Now, the administration of the University of Tennessee has decided, following the devastating loss at the hands of SEC rival Missouri, that the Butch Jones era at Rocky Top have come to an end. The Vol’s lost 50 – 17 with two games left in a season where they are now 4-6 overall and 0-6 in the SEC.
But, don’t worry Coach Jones fans, he’s well taken care of. According to the official release, in a released letter Sunday by the university, Coach Jones’s buyout if a comfy one. UT states it will live up to the “terms of Jones’ current contract” and pay him the full amount of his contract’s buyout.
Meaning, Butch Jones will be paid $8.2 million in monthly installments until February of 2021. Some of that may be affected by the contract of Jones’ next job – so it’s safe to say that the former head coach will not be short on spending money the next several years.
Now it’s time for the Volunteer’s to start searching for a new coach. It’s probably been underway by third party firms already – but now it’s official! Being in East Tennessee, less than two hours away from Neyland stadium, I thought I would mention some of the possible coaching names I’ve heard.
These come from UT fans, alumni, and on sports talk radio that the Vol’s fan base hopes the administration goes after. Not all of these names make sense – it’s just what the UT fan base is mulling over following the release of their head coach.
Jon Gruden Yes, the Gruden connection lives on with UT fans! For some reason the Vol’s fanbase is convinced that Coach Jon Gruden had such a great time as a graduate assistant for a season in Knoxville that he’s dying to come back following a successful career in coaching and now as a broadcaster for NFL games. The only issue is that Gruden is making a ton of cash on a national stage. Why give that up to rebuild, once again, a college football program with fans wanting success – starting next season? Gruden is fun to talk about, but the possibilities are slim to zero. He’s making national TV commercials as a spokesman for goodness sake!
Tee Martin Everybody remembers the glory days of Payton Manning at UT. But, it was quarterback Tee Martin that led the Volunteers to a National Championship the year after Manning graduated and moved on to the NFL. Martin has since been a fan favorite and a guy working his way up the coaching ladder. He’s now calling the offense for USC. The only drawback is that Martin has yet to have a head coaching job and the administration in Knoxville is not known for offering first-timers job contracts very often.
Jim Bob Cooter A legend in Tennessee! Jim Bob Cooter was the longtime backup to Manning and is a Tennessee native. He started his coaching out… really as a player! He did more than just carrying the clipboard. He walked the sidelines with the coaches, was in on everything, and was an earpiece for Manning and the coaching staff. Apparently, Cooter soaked it all in and continued to learn as a graduate assistant for the Vol’s. He’s moved on and is now with the Detroit Lions as their offensive coordinator.
Jeff Fisher Yep, the former Tennessee Titans coach is one that is being brought up more and more often. Fisher lives in Nashville Tennessee and has made it known that he’s still interested in getting back on the sidelines as a head coach if an opportunity presents itself. Well coach, something might be open down the road in Knoxville! Fisher played at USC, played five years for the Chicago Bears earning a Super Bowl ring. Fisher used his rehab time on the injured reserve list following a broken leg to work his way into the inner circle of the coaching staff as an asset to Buddy Ryan. When Ryan was hired by the Eagles he brought Fisher along with him as an assistant. Now, the former Titan’s coach is being tossed around by Vol’s fans as a possible head coach.
Lane Kiffin? Yep – there’s been talk! Does time heal all wounds? Maybe – maybe not. The last time Lane Kiffin was the head coach at Tennessee it did not end well. He was fired as he quit to accept his dream job in California. That didn’t end well as he was let go from that job – something UT fans relished in. There are still a lot of Kiffin haters in Big Orange country. However, Kiffin seems to have matured since being away from the Vol’s. He’s also gone through a divorce, taken a job at a smaller division one program and stayed away from controversy the last few seasons. Kiffin is now guiding FAU to the top-ranks of Conference USA. It’s probably a long shot – but after the Jones, and Dooley, era’s - UT fan’s may be open to bringing the coach with a “name that shall not be spoken” back into the fold. And, yes – I have Tennessee fans that still will not say Kiffin. So, that choice may never leave the rumor stage.