Hart says he's more confident than ever in Jones

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones celebrates with Athletic Director Dave Hart after Tennessee upset No. 9 ranked South Carolina 23-21 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. A last-second field goal by kicker Michael Palardy, ended the Vols' 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents, and sent Neyland Stadium into bedlam. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Lau

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones celebrates with Athletic Director Dave Hart after Tennessee upset No. 9 ranked South Carolina 23-21 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013. A last-second field goal by kicker Michael Palardy, ended the Vols' 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents, and sent Neyland Stadium into bedlam. (ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart has even more confidence in Butch Jones now than when he hired the Volunteers' football coach a year ago.

Not even a losing record in Jones' debut season has changed that.

Hart said Jones has changed the culture surrounding Tennessee's program, even though the coaching move hasn't altered the Volunteers' record yet. Tennessee had the same 5-7 record this fall as it posted last year in the final season of fired coach Derek Dooley's tenure.

"I think Butch Jones has verified everything that we thought he would bring to the team," Hart said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. "He has galvanized all of our constituents. He's a tireless worker with unlimited energy, it seems. I'm very pleased with where the program is headed."

That forward progress has been more evident off the field so far.

Tennessee had an average announced attendance this season of 95,584, its highest since 2010. That represented a 6.2-percent increase from last year's average of 89,965, which was the program's lowest since 1979. Jones also is putting together a 2014 recruiting class that's ranked among the nation's best.

"Butch likes people," Jones said. "You can't fake that. You either enjoy people or you don't. He thoroughly enjoys people. He likes being around our fans, alumni, high school coaches, lettermen. He looks forward to every opportunity he gets to visit with people who share his passion for the University of Tennessee and our football program."

Jones also has improved Tennessee's performance in the classroom.

Last summer, the NCAA released figures showing Tennessee ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in how the organization measures academic progress. Tennessee faced penalties that included a postseason ban if it didn't improve. Although the new Academic Progress Rate figures won't be announced until next summer, Hart and Jones have said the NCAA has informed them that Tennessee has upgraded its academic performance to the point that it no longer has to worry about any potential punishment.

But there's still plenty of work to be done on the field.

The Vols have just completed their fourth straight losing season, the first time that's happened at Tennessee since 1903-06. After Tennessee concluded its season Nov. 30 with a 27-14 victory at Kentucky, Jones said "it's expected that we go to bowl games from here on out." Hart has similar expectations.

"We very much have the same goals, the same priorities," Hart said. "That won't be a snap-your-fingers and it's done. But eventually there's no question we'll get to our destination."

Tennessee faced a brutal schedule that included five teams currently ranked in the top 10: No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 9 Missouri and No. 10 Oregon. The Vols face another demanding schedule next fall as they begin a home-and-home series with Oklahoma by traveling to Norman.

That scheduling philosophy likely won't change. This fall, Tennessee announced it would face Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016. Hart said he would continue pursuing high-profile non-conference matchups at neutral sites even if the SEC moves to a nine-game conference schedule.

Hart believes Jones will have his team ready for those kinds of challenges. He notes that some seniors on this year's team went through four position coaches in as many years. Tennessee's returning players appreciate the stability Jones brought to the program, and Hart believes they understand the coaching staff's expectations.

"I see their understanding of what it's going to take to get the program back where we all want it," Hart said. "And we will get it back to where we all want it."

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Comments » 16

Djin writes:

jeez-o-pete!!! What in the world happened to the comments section on this site??

I just subscribed to the KNS, mainly for the sports & comment section - looks like I screwed myself on that deal!!

I wonder if the KNS is happy with their user activity after making their site a paid content site?

RoadTrip writes:

in response to Djin:

jeez-o-pete!!! What in the world happened to the comments section on this site??

I just subscribed to the KNS, mainly for the sports & comment section - looks like I screwed myself on that deal!!

I wonder if the KNS is happy with their user activity after making their site a paid content site?

They probably are happy. Which tells you all you need to know about this dying dinosaur.

OrangePride writes:

Ohhhh yes....the comments are lucky to now reach double digits and it is appalling! Clearly the pay to read policy is a flop. They decreased online readership by over 90% if you can judge from the comment decrease. Some wizard at the UT Journalism School will need to explain to me just how that translates to higher advertising revenue. Now, on point to the article. I too think we have the right coach. But, in Hart's situation, he BETTER be right. This is his signature hire. But this Jones recruiting class will put us in the right direction. One more like this and I see us right in the championship hunt! They won't have Tennessee to kick around any.....errr wait...scratch that. GO CBJ!

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Hey guys, look at the positive side of the equation, all the trolls are hiding under their rocks trying to figure out other ways to p--- off UT fans.

Dickattrade writes:

I just hope Hart keeps UT's money in his pocket and not start handing out raises until we produce on the field.

VibrantVol writes:

I'm sold on Jones as a person & as a recruiter, too, but it remains to be seen if he can coach all of the stellar talent he's recruiting up to SEC championship level. The jury is also still out on his staff, some of whom were rejects from other SEC teams that didn't win championships, & some of whom have never coached at this rarified level before. The SEC is closer to the NFL than Central Michigan & Cincinnati are to the SEC.

Next season may not show any better record than this one. Another 5-7 showing may be the best that Jones can do with all of the seniors leaving this team. Nearly half of the roster will be new next year & the starting lineup will be totally changed. I'm hearing Riley Ferguson, who is the only QB we have that can accurately throw the ball long, will be the starter.

Hart needs to concentrate now on getting us a new men's basketball coach. It ought to be obvious to everyone by now that Martin can't coach offense at all & will again fail to make the NCAA tourney. We're liable to lose to NC State at home tomorrow night, which will seal his fate. Hart was smart not to extend his contract last year. Anyone we hire other than Pearl will divide the fan base like never before. Pearl is the guy to get us back to championships. Hart needs to persuade Cheek to get Bruce back.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Pearl isn't coming back! He cooked his own future at UT.
You haven't heard Forbes and Shay say anything good about him. They have moved on and so should the dreamers.

BrassMonkey writes:

Hart needs to go. No other AD has accomplished so little with so much. The athletic department is as dead as KNS.

OrangePride writes:

in response to VibrantVol:

I'm sold on Jones as a person & as a recruiter, too, but it remains to be seen if he can coach all of the stellar talent he's recruiting up to SEC championship level. The jury is also still out on his staff, some of whom were rejects from other SEC teams that didn't win championships, & some of whom have never coached at this rarified level before. The SEC is closer to the NFL than Central Michigan & Cincinnati are to the SEC.

Next season may not show any better record than this one. Another 5-7 showing may be the best that Jones can do with all of the seniors leaving this team. Nearly half of the roster will be new next year & the starting lineup will be totally changed. I'm hearing Riley Ferguson, who is the only QB we have that can accurately throw the ball long, will be the starter.

Hart needs to concentrate now on getting us a new men's basketball coach. It ought to be obvious to everyone by now that Martin can't coach offense at all & will again fail to make the NCAA tourney. We're liable to lose to NC State at home tomorrow night, which will seal his fate. Hart was smart not to extend his contract last year. Anyone we hire other than Pearl will divide the fan base like never before. Pearl is the guy to get us back to championships. Hart needs to persuade Cheek to get Bruce back.

I would have to agree with nearly your entire post. As you correctly point out, the big question remaining is can CBJ and staff mold all this new talent into a winning SEC football team that will compete for championships. His previous track record, albeit in lower competition leagues, suggests he can. But this is the big water and we will have to see. I also agree that another 5-7 is highly possible, and it this point perhaps likely. But who knows, we were a whisker away from 7-5 this year, just two bad plays (the fumble and block in the back) keeping us on the wrong side of the ledger.

As for Ferguson, the early report is that he is the better at long balls. But there is so much more to running the offense than just accuracy down the field. I really doubt any clear leader is there right now, at least not as far as the coaches are concerned. We will see more after spring practice.

I will leave the more complete basketball discussion for a different time, but I don't think CCM is on the hot-seat just now.....but it's getting warmer. This team has an awful lot of talent on it, so it's possible that they could find their game and surprise everyone. It's also possible that the rest of the year is like the start of the year, then yes.......Hart needs to think about whether this is the right formula to keep TBA filled (and as we all know, THAT is the real issue with AD's).

gc_scvol writes:

in response to VibrantVol:

I'm sold on Jones as a person & as a recruiter, too, but it remains to be seen if he can coach all of the stellar talent he's recruiting up to SEC championship level. The jury is also still out on his staff, some of whom were rejects from other SEC teams that didn't win championships, & some of whom have never coached at this rarified level before. The SEC is closer to the NFL than Central Michigan & Cincinnati are to the SEC.

Next season may not show any better record than this one. Another 5-7 showing may be the best that Jones can do with all of the seniors leaving this team. Nearly half of the roster will be new next year & the starting lineup will be totally changed. I'm hearing Riley Ferguson, who is the only QB we have that can accurately throw the ball long, will be the starter.

Hart needs to concentrate now on getting us a new men's basketball coach. It ought to be obvious to everyone by now that Martin can't coach offense at all & will again fail to make the NCAA tourney. We're liable to lose to NC State at home tomorrow night, which will seal his fate. Hart was smart not to extend his contract last year. Anyone we hire other than Pearl will divide the fan base like never before. Pearl is the guy to get us back to championships. Hart needs to persuade Cheek to get Bruce back.

Man, youl et that user name set around for a long time before you used it. June 5, 2007 Familiar?

murrayvol writes:

in response to OrangePride:

I would have to agree with nearly your entire post. As you correctly point out, the big question remaining is can CBJ and staff mold all this new talent into a winning SEC football team that will compete for championships. His previous track record, albeit in lower competition leagues, suggests he can. But this is the big water and we will have to see. I also agree that another 5-7 is highly possible, and it this point perhaps likely. But who knows, we were a whisker away from 7-5 this year, just two bad plays (the fumble and block in the back) keeping us on the wrong side of the ledger.

As for Ferguson, the early report is that he is the better at long balls. But there is so much more to running the offense than just accuracy down the field. I really doubt any clear leader is there right now, at least not as far as the coaches are concerned. We will see more after spring practice.

I will leave the more complete basketball discussion for a different time, but I don't think CCM is on the hot-seat just now.....but it's getting warmer. This team has an awful lot of talent on it, so it's possible that they could find their game and surprise everyone. It's also possible that the rest of the year is like the start of the year, then yes.......Hart needs to think about whether this is the right formula to keep TBA filled (and as we all know, THAT is the real issue with AD's).

Yes, we were "a whisker away from 7-5 this year" and that's good. But we were also a whisker away from 3-9 and that's bad.

I'm hoping we can improve in 14' but not overly confident that we will. Lots of bricks need to be laid.

Chris_L75 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

They probably are happy. Which tells you all you need to know about this dying dinosaur.

They don't seem to allow any new commenters, either. This is my third and perhaps final attempt, all with the same "must be reviewed by staff" message, and nothing posts. Well, staff, I guess we need some further clarification of rules here. In any event, GBO!

OrangePride writes:

in response to Chris_L75:

They don't seem to allow any new commenters, either. This is my third and perhaps final attempt, all with the same "must be reviewed by staff" message, and nothing posts. Well, staff, I guess we need some further clarification of rules here. In any event, GBO!

Really....you had to have it "reviewed by the staff?" With some of the moron stuff that sometimes shows up, yours needs a review? Maybe they thought it was "fishy." There's folks looking for that kind of stuff. Hey KNS, I have an idea if you have so much time as to review and redact our writing...why don't you spend a little time reviewing what John Adams writes. We'd all like that.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Chris_L75:

They don't seem to allow any new commenters, either. This is my third and perhaps final attempt, all with the same "must be reviewed by staff" message, and nothing posts. Well, staff, I guess we need some further clarification of rules here. In any event, GBO!

How strange! When this was a free site, inflammatory posts were regularly "removed by staff", but this prior censorship, if that is what it is, is entirely new. I have been on here for years and never been told that any post of mine was just NOT going to be published. I have been admonished for language--not often and nothing intentionally vulgar; just something that offended a rather sensitive "site nanny" program--or told that a post was too long, but as soon as the correction was made, the post went up. If I were you, I would contact somebody directly and ask them what the deal is.

fannotsheep writes:

Is WBIR charging for their web content?

I would guess not, and that would likely explain part of the drop-off in comments. Not that TV sports teams do much more than report what they read in the paper -- along with the couple of things they cover with their roving video squads.

I enjoy reading the articles and the comments, but you have to be a real fan to pay for content that boils down to five stories a day, each one listed three or four times under different categories to make it look like you get more for your money. Sad.

fannotsheep writes:

Oh yeah, I meant to add that I don't think Hart is in any position to be anything but a Butch Jones cheerleader. Football recruiting is the only bright spot in the darkest era of UT sports I can recall in a half-century.

If Jones fails -- as Cuonzo Martin apparently is in the process of doing -- then I'd say ol' Dave might need to decide on his next location, whether that's a new job or a rocking chair. But if he don't get along with his wife any better than the gals over at UT I'd say he won't be sitting around the house much.

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