What if he had said: "I want somebody that can compete with anyone in the Mid-American Conference and come out ahead more times than not. And if he also has kicked some Big East butt along the way, so much the better."
Can you imagine the fans' response?
Fans had something bigger (Jon Gruden) in mind back then. In fact, fans had something bigger in mind Thursday evening when media reports first indicated Cincinnati's Butch Jones might be their next coach.
I have received scores of emails over the last three weeks recommending various coaches for the UT job. Some agreed with me (former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino). Some were plausible (Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen). Some were laughable (former UT coach Phillip Fulmer).
But none of them mentioned Jones.
Maybe that's because the Big East isn't that big of a deal around here, although you couldn't tell it by the coaching search. Louisville's Charlie Strong was the flavor of the day Wednesday. After he turned down the Vols, maybe they wanted to check out the rest of their Big East candidates before venturing elsewhere.
As you might have noticed, Jones has been on a coaching search of his own. He checked out jobs at Purdue and Colorado before deciding Cincinnati was the best place for him — at least, until something better came along.
It's safe to say UT is something better. I base that on the size of the stadium, the passion of the fans, the quality of the facilities and on what happened when the Bearcats came to town in September of 2011.
One of Jones' best teams lost to one of UT's worst teams 45-23.
But that's one game — just like his Central Michigan team's 70-14 loss to Clemson was one game, its 52-7 loss to Kansas was one game, and its 56-17 loss to Georgia was one game.
Don't dwell on that, though. There's no shame in a MAC team giving up 50 or more points to BCS programs. Nor is it out of line with what has been going on with Tennessee's defense, which gave up 48 to a Sun Belt Conference team (Troy) and 41 or more points to five SEC teams this past season.
Besides, Jones is more of an offensive guy.
You want to feel better about Jones' UT candidacy? Check out his record. There are a lot more wins than losses.
That contrasts sharply with UT's recent hiring practices. Two hires back, it picked Lane Kiffin, who had a losing record as a head coach. Dooley also had a losing record at Louisiana Tech when the Vols hired him.
Moreover, Jones has more head-coaching experience than either Kiffin or Dooley. This is his third season at Cincinnati. He also was at Central Michigan for three seasons.
But that doesn't exactly make him a household name in East Tennessee, as evidenced by the Thursday night tweet from UT offensive tackle Antonio Richardson.
"Can somebody educate me on who Butch Jones is?" Richardson tweeted. "Thanks."
I think I can help.
He's not Jon Gruden. But he's the candidate most likely to say "yes."
He's also the guy who accomplished something Tennessee couldn't. He won his last game against Vanderbilt — in the 2011 Liberty Bowl.