Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart met with Butch Jones for the first time Thursday night at 10 p.m. in Lexington, Ky.
Only 20 minutes into the late-night session, he was convinced he had found Tennessee’s next football coach.
"I was impressed with his candor,” Hart said. “He didn't try to sell anything that wasn't real.”
Jones, who spent three years as coach at Cincinnati, was introduced as the Vols’ new coach Friday afternoon at the Peyton Manning Locker Room at Neyland Stadium.
Jones, who signed a six-year agreement worth roughly $3 million annually, called Tennessee his “dream job.”
“I’m very instinctual. I trust my gut,” Jones said of his decision to turn down opportunities at Purdue and Colorado while Tennessee pursued other candidates. “I believe everything happens for a reason.”
Jones, who was going on little sleep, said he finalized agreement with Hart early in the morning and then went to campus for an emotional meeting with his team.
When he told the players that he had accepted the job, players broke into applause.
"I believe in total honesty with your players. When you're honest, they'll go to bat for you,” Jones said. “Everything we do is based on the core value of family.”
Before meeting with media, Jones talked briefly to his new team at Tennessee. He said he was familiar with about half the roster from the recruiting process and scouting the Vols when they met in 2011.
Jones said a handful of coaches would come with him from Cincinnati to Tennessee, but that he would otherwise “leave no stone unturned” in his search for the “best staff in the country.”
Jones said ties to the Southeast would not be an overriding factor.
"If you can recruit, you can recruit,” he said. “It doesn't matter what area of the country. Recruiting is selling. It's a people business."
Jones, who turns 45 next month, introduced his wife and three sons at the beginning of the press conference. His sons took turns stating their names and ages.
"If we lose a game in the Jones household, we don't talk for a week,” he joked. “They have their own blogs, too."
Hart said Jones was on a list of roughly “half a dozen” targets that he identified at the start of the search. Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Oklahoma State Mike Gundy appeared to be ahead of Jones in the pecking order, but Hart said he was confident that anyone on his list could be successful.
“You offer the job, somebody takes it or doesn't, and you move on,” he said.
UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek attended the press conference and was supportive of the search, Hart said.
"He met with the candidates,” Hart said. “He said, 'Tell me what to do. I'll make it a priority.' "
Timeline of events
Nov. 10: On the heels of a third consecutive winless October in the SEC and a less-than stellar homecoming win over Troy, Tennessee falls to Missouri in four overtimes, 51-48. The game is notable for then-coach Derek Dooley's decision to not play for the win at the end of regulation with two timeouts and the ball near midfield.
Nov. 17:Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt in Nashville for the first time since 1982, 41-18. It is the worst loss the Vols have had to their in-state foe in multiple generations. The loss guarantees a three-season sub-.500 streak for Tennessee for the first time in over 100 years.
Nov. 18: UT athletics director Dave Hart meets with, and fires, coach Dooley in the early morning hours. Dooley elects not to coach the regular-season finale with Kentucky. Hart announces that he will be a committee of one in his search for a new coach.
Nov. 24: Tennessee wins against Kentucky to end the season at 5-7 and remain, along with Ohio State, one of only two Football Bowl Subdivision teams never to lose eight games in a season.
Nov. 30: Ending days of speculation, UT sources and Jon Gruden's agent both refute claims that the former NFL coach and Vols' graduate assistant was close to coming to coach the Vols, with his agent calling it, "fantasy."
Dec. 5: Louisville coach Charlie Strong turns down the Tennessee job. UT's Hart had returned to Knoxville from meeting with Strong in Louisville convinced he had found his next coach, according to reports.
Dec. 7: Butch Jones tells Cincinnati he is leaving to take the head coaching position at Tennessee.