He needed an answer from Jones about whether he was accepting a lucrative offer to become the next head coach at Colorado.
“We’re not going to Colorado,” Jones told him. “We’re staying.”
Minutes later, Babcock’s phone buzzed. It was Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart.
Babcock laid out the details of Tennessee’s rapid courtship of Jones in a candid press conference this morning in Cincinnati. Jones will be introduced as Tennessee’s head coach later today.
Babcock said no fewer than five BCS schools attempted to talk to Jones. But Tennessee’s approach was different.
"Dave Hart called me in advance, and he was the only AD to do that,” Babcock said. “That is a lost etiquette...Dave Hart is a gentleman. He was first class.”
Babcock said he’s convinced that Jones didn’t know of Tennessee’s pursuit until after he had turned down the Colorado job.
“I have no reason to doubt he was honest with me throughout the process,” Babcock said.
By Thursday morning, Babcock and UC officials had grown tired of Jones’ flirtation with other jobs. But they knew the UT job would be tough to turn down.
“All I said was, ‘We don’t have a lot of time. You know it and I know it,’” Babcock said. “I asked him to set a team meeting in less than 24 hours. They deserved an answer and we deserved an answer.”
At 5:15 a.m. this morning, Jones called Babcock to tell him he was leaving for Tennessee. Two hours later, he told the team.
Babcock and UC President Santa Jeremy Ono also addressed the players, offering support for their final game on Dec. 27 against Duke.
Ono said he told the players, “You can buy a person a lot. But you can't buy his heart. Men, my heart is with you...My heart will be with you in Belk Bowl."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.