Butch Jones introduced as the new head coach of the UT football team
It's time to quit belaboring the troubled past. Tennessee football needs to move on.
I don't know how many times I heard athletic director Dave Hart offer those words in interviews or to civic clubs
He was saying it even before Derek Dooley extended the troubled past with another five-win season and then became part of it.
Now, Tennessee can move on. It has a face to lead the march into a brighter future.
That's what a coaching change does for you. It buys a fresh start.
The price isn't cheap, but sometimes it's necessary.
Whether Butch Jones is the right guy to get Tennessee back to competing for SEC titles, we won't know for a while. But the beauty of a fresh start is it's, well, fresh.
I haven't heard a peep in the past two weeks about getting spanked by Vanderbilt or, for shame, falling short of even the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The undivided focus is going forward. Anything is possible again.
Tennessee football is being reborn. The new leader is in place. Next up, building a new staff. Then recruiting new players.
Today is Jones' fourth day on the job. I'd judge his first as a success. He was energetic and engaging in a whirlwind Friday, despite sleep deprivation after all-night negotiations.
Sure, he served up the coach-speak cliches at his introductory media conference. Tennessee was his dream job. He'll hire the best coaching staff in America. But that's all to be expected.
UT insiders were impressed when he agreed to be wired for sound and videotaped from the moment he hit campus.
"You don't realize what you have here,'' he told his new team behind closed doors. "You are the best of the best.''
And this ...
"The program we have is infallible, if you allow it to work.''
Infallible is a strong word. We'll see how it holds up in the rigors of the SEC.
But it worked at Central Michigan and again at Cincinnati. That's a better track record than the past couple of UT football hires.
Hart, taking his most critical at-bat as AD, wanted proven success. That was obvious in the list of candidates he courted.
"Has he been able to win everywhere he's been?'' said Hart. "Has he been able to rebuild?
"Has he been able to take talent that was there and expound on the success of that talent?"
Relationships mattered, too. Hart talked to players Jones had coached. Did he care? He did. Did he connect with them? He did.
"It was a very consistent theme,'' Hart said.
Another consistent theme: Jones wanted to be Tennessee's coach in the worst way. No arm-twisting required.
That there are issues particular to this time and place in UT history didn't deter him. Nor did the savagery of the SEC.
"He was,'' said Hart, "extraordinarily prepared for what turned out to be a lengthy discussion.''
The discussion is over. The action has begun. Jones has hit the ground running as the new face of Tennessee football, leaving a good first impression.
"The press conference fades quickly,'' Hart said. "It's success on the field.''
And that test will come soon enough, in far-flung, difficult places like Oregon and Gainesville and in Neyland Stadium. For the moment, though, the troubled past is past.
Tennessee football has a fresh start. It needed one.