Butch Jones goal is simple: Rebuild the Vols

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography
University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones.

Photo by Wade Payne, Thunderhead Photography © 2013 Lisa Norman-Hudson, Wade Payne

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones.

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography

Photo by Wade Payne, Thunderhead Photography © 2013 Lisa Norman-Hudson, Wade Payne

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography

ADAM BRIMER/staff
Jones watches the Orange & White Game in April.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/staff Jones watches the Orange & White Game in April.

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/staff
Jones talks with offensive linemen during the practice and first scrimmage in March.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/staff Jones talks with offensive linemen during the practice and first scrimmage in March.

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/staff
Jones throws a pass to wide receiver Cody Blanc during March practice.

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/staff Jones throws a pass to wide receiver Cody Blanc during March practice.

University of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones congratulates wide receiver Pig Howard on his efforts during the practice and first scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones congratulates wide receiver Pig Howard on his efforts during the practice and first scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography
Mementos of Tennessee’s glory days in Jones’ office include helmets signed by Peyton Manning, Arian Foster and Al Wilson.

Photo by Wade Payne, Thunderhead Photography © 2013 Lisa Norman-Hudson, Wade Payne

Wade Payne/Thunderhead Photography Mementos of Tennessee’s glory days in Jones’ office include helmets signed by Peyton Manning, Arian Foster and Al Wilson.

University of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones throws a pass to wide receiver Cody Blanc during the practice and first scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

University of Tennessee head coach Butch Jones throws a pass to wide receiver Cody Blanc during the practice and first scrimmage at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, March 16, 2013. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

The door lock chirps and the handle jiggles. Butch Jones enters his expansive office in the corner of the newly renovated Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. He has done it hundreds of times since becoming football coach of the University of Tennessee in December, but there’s still a twinkle in his eye this May afternoon.

Once inside, he pauses. Standing motionless, Jones sighs. He directs his attention toward a window, gazing up and down at the picturesque view as if seeing it for the first time. It’s a stare that suggests the coach who came from the University of Cincinnati considers it a privilege just to enter his office every morning. Not a privilege in the sense that he feels unsuited for his position. Rather, he sees endless opportunity. When Jones looks out his window, he sees a town, a stadium and a culture dying for gridiron glory. He sees a “one-of-a-kind” program. A program that should sell itself. And a program he’s privileged to helm.

“It really is something, isn’t it?” Jones says. “I haven’t had any time to let this all sink in. We hit the ground running. It’s been non-stop. And it’s been great. What a great product to sell. I’ve said it thousands of times: There’s only one Tennessee. There are very few places like this in the country. But you win with people. It’s a people business. We have the right place, and the right people in this place.”

This is how Jones operates. He manages to pull off an everyman sensibility while sharing his lofty goals with matter-of-fact bluntness. Jones doesn’t check his competitive spirit at his office door but wears it on his sleeve like a badge. He talks openly about restoring the long-lost winning ways, stopping just shy of cockiness.

The Coach’s lair

To Jones, football isn’t simply an exhilarating way to make a living. It’s not a hobby. It’s life. He lives it. He breathes it. His approach to the game is spiked with indisputable passion. He boasts of his visions. He talks of Tennessee’s unmatched traditions. In fact, his office overflows with it.

The coach’s lair sits on the southern tip of the UT’s campus. It would be difficult to find a better view in town. Just beyond the rising smokestack from the university’s steam plant, the Tennessee River curls and the Great Smoky Mountains roll on the horizon. The interior of his office serves as a museum of all things Tennessee football.

The crystal ball atop the 1998 national-title trophy glows next to a window at the end of a massive meeting table. A mural of Neyland Stadium stakes out the wall behind his desk. Run-of-the-mill football mementos are scattered all around — helmets in a few cubbies, cleats and trophies in a few others. Several pictures of Jones with his family, past players and notable sports figures like Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick occupy the remaining space.

While Jones’s office is filled with relics of the past — Tennessee helmets signed by Peyton Manning, Arian Foster and Al Wilson sit prominently on an end table to Jones’s right — he understands his job is shaping the program’s future.

Stability has been an issue in Knoxville over the past four seasons, something Jones isn’t afraid to admit. The college town enamored with football for half a century now welcomes its fourth head coach since 2008. Jones doesn’t shy away from answering where righting the wrongs begins.

“Losing is a disease,” Jones says. “And we’ve had some ills around here. Setting it on the right course all lies on the head football coach. It starts at the top. From the nutritionist to our administrators, players and custodial staff, getting everyone on the same page is on the head football coach. We’ll get there. We’re working to win every day.”

Jones checks his phone and chuckles, recalling a day not long after he arrived in Knoxville when his wife, Barb, looked at his cell phone. Wide-eyed, she asked, “Do you know you have over 550 text messages?”

Yes, the advice has been coming in barrels for the first-year coach. There has been, says the coach, a consistency throughout all the phone calls, emails and texts.

“They all said be who you are,” Jones says. “Do what you do. It’s proven. It’s worked. Don’t change. There’s a reason why you’re at the University of Tennessee. There’s a reason why they hired you as their head football coach. I’ve taken that to heart, truly.”

One of Jones’s favorites tidbits came from longtime University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr. “The great leaders sometimes tell their worst fears to their pillows,” Carr told Jones. “Leadership is lonely. You don’t have a lot of people in your corner. You have to be confident and never deviate.”

As Jones recites Carr’s advice, he smiles. The son of a small-town Michigan police chief, Jones loves to talk about leadership. He speaks endlessly on the topic. His gaze turns stern, and he thumps a closed fist against his thigh to emphasis importance.

Sometimes Jones’s leadership mantras are well-worn ones: “Anyone can present, but very few can teach.” “True leaders are built when no one is watching.” Jones makes no apologies because these aren’t sound bites. He believes them and lives them. More important, those who work for him believe the philosophy, too, something he says is evident to anyone taking the time to look around. Go to the practice field or show up at a team meeting. You will find a new style of leadership, Jones assures. Whether it will work, only time will tell, but it is new.

“I think teams and organizations succeed or fail based on leadership,” Jones says. “And I can promise you one thing: We have a coaching staff here who are thankful for this opportunity. We understand the expectations and what is required here, but we’re thankful to be here. This is why your family sacrifices for years in this profession — to be able to coach at a place like the University of Tennessee. We’re excited to lead.”

Leadership Style

Jones hasn’t won a game at Tennessee. The only contest he’s coached was internal.

During the Vols’ Orange & White game on April 20, the score didn’t count. Records weren’t at stake. An SEC foe wasn’t lining up across the sideline.

The game was important nonetheless because Jones wanted the change to be apparent. The new leadership style was put on full display. Also evident was Jones’s hands-on approach.

During the Vols’ spring practices, the coach prepared the team — and perhaps the new coaching staff – for the mania that is Neyland Stadium by blasting the field with distractions. Over the loudspeakers came a baby’s cry, a police siren screech and a car alarm wailing incessantly.

The few pauses in the action-packed environment were when Jones grabbed a microphone and darted all over the field. He interrupted the pounding sound of hip-hop music to scream, “Too many bad habits!” and “I’m in better shape than you, and I’m 45 years old!”

Jones loves to promote competition.

Off the field, Jones views himself as a CEO. He likens his football program to a well-run business.

His focus is restoring the Tennessee brand. With that come endless promotions and speaking engagements.

In short, Jones has been saying “yes” a lot lately. He has spoken at everything from UT’s Student Government Association’s installment of new officers to numerous radio shows to the Middle Tennessee Christian School. Jones admits his schedule has been a whirlwind but sees a purpose to this madness.

“It’s all about our brand and getting our vision across,” Jones says. “I’m the CEO, and we’re in a customer-service industry. It all starts with trust. It’s our plan, our vision, and it’s genuine. It can take you three years to build trust and a relationship, and it can take 30 seconds to tear it down. The more you know your employees and the more your players and fans know you, the more they know you care about them. That makes them willing to go the extra mile for you.”

Outside his window is the faint sound of bricklayers working just below his office. The scraping of trowels over mortar brings to mind another thought Jones wants to share.

“We have a lot of building going on around here,” Jones says. “I’m watching these workers lay the bricks one day, and I start thinking: If one brick is out of place, they will have to start the whole project over. If they continue to build and that brick isn’t aligned properly, everyone is going to see that misaligned brick. We’re trying to build a foundation here, too. That’s how we’re going to build this program, this business – from the foundation up, brick by brick.”

Riley Blevins, a University of Tennessee student and freelance writer, is working as an intern with RedEye in Chicago this summer.

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Comments » 29

Olddogsrule writes:

Hey KNS, Where's the article?

AlpharettaVol writes:

I know Coach Jones wants to start with a blank slate, but this is carrying it way too far!

Shake_Bake writes:

Wish you and the entire team the very best for the upcoming season! It isn't going to be easy, the SEC is the best conference in the nation. The schedule you have to play is brutal. But work your way through it one game at a time, teach these players and coach them up the best you can!

I look forward to wathcing this program turn around. It won't happen over night, but keep these players focused and we will get there.

It is almost football time in Tennessee!! Let's go Big Orange!!

RockyMtnVol writes:

It would not surprise me if UT exceeded expectations...we have talent on this team, and I think enough to win some games others thought we would not....I would especially enjoy UT kicking the c*^%! out of Vandy.

Go CBJ! and Go VOLS!!

NowHearThis writes:

In 3-4 years Butch will have UT back at 7-5 where they belong.

arkyvol writes:

"losing is a disease...,as contagious as syphilis".

dooley could have used that half-pint psychologist.

6972 writes:

in response to NowHearThis:

In 3-4 years Butch will have UT back at 7-5 where they belong.

I see your crystal ball is working cystal clear again. Would you go ahead a pick a few stocks that will make me rich?

UTKin1992 writes:

in response to NowHearThis:

In 3-4 years Butch will have UT back at 7-5 where they belong.

Ha now that's fu....oh, wait. Another player on your teams been arrested.

topbanana writes:

I been in Knoxville for 6 years now and watched coaches come and go and the Vols play football so bad three or four high school teams in the area could beat the pants off them. I sincerely hope this time is different. I love to go to college games but until UT can play well enough for me to spend $50.00 on a ticket I'll stay home.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to topbanana:

I been in Knoxville for 6 years now and watched coaches come and go and the Vols play football so bad three or four high school teams in the area could beat the pants off them. I sincerely hope this time is different. I love to go to college games but until UT can play well enough for me to spend $50.00 on a ticket I'll stay home.

You're an idiot to make a statement about HS teams beating D1 college teams. Credibility now shot, so STHU!

spvol writes:

Blevins is the best feature writer I have seen on KNS in a LONG time. Give him a job.

richvol writes:

A superb article.

WaltGoVoIs writes:

in response to richvol:

A superb article.

Definitely concur.

FIGHT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT FOR THE ORANGE AND WHITE!!!

Walt

UT '81

ReVolver writes:

Good write-up!

voloffaith writes:

in response to arkyvol:

"losing is a disease...,as contagious as syphilis".

dooley could have used that half-pint psychologist.

All I saw was "losing is a disease." Reread article and no use of that ugly condition.On topic, we have the right coaches and in time 2-3 yrs will be in the mix , for the east if not all of it. Depends if Saban and Miles move on.........

baldingalum writes:

Congratulations to the young man who wrote this article! I am very proud that a current student put forth a work of this length and depth. Kudos to you! Your future is bright.

SoFlaVol writes:

My thoughts exactly, and we won't be missing you in Neyland on Saturdays this fall, so save your fifty bucks. My twin sons will be attending George Washington University in DC and Vassar College in NY this fall on academic scholarships and for the first time in many years as a single parent, I will be free to spend time in my hometown of Morristown and will be cheering the Vols from the same seats my family has had for about fifty years now. I can't wait to be in Neyland again while you fair weather fans sit at home.

SoFlaVol writes:

in response to SoFlaVol:

My thoughts exactly, and we won't be missing you in Neyland on Saturdays this fall, so save your fifty bucks. My twin sons will be attending George Washington University in DC and Vassar College in NY this fall on academic scholarships and for the first time in many years as a single parent, I will be free to spend time in my hometown of Morristown and will be cheering the Vols from the same seats my family has had for about fifty years now. I can't wait to be in Neyland again while you fair weather fans sit at home.

My post was in response to the troll that didn't want to spend fifty bucks to see the Vols play. I guess I hit the wrong button. I think I made my point clear though.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

"Jones hasn’t won a game at Tennessee. The only contest he’s coached was internal."

I gotta disagree. Jones is winning on the recruiting trail and in the SEC (this is what Dooley was never able to do). Jones is beating out Bama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia for Recruits. If Jones does nothing else at UT, that is pretty amazing, especially considering how UT has been wandering in the wilderness for the last six years. He deserves credit for succeeding in the most competitive high school athletics recruiting market in the country.

I was critical of the guy when he was hired, but so far he's proven me and everyone else critical of his ability to recruit to be wrong. That deserves to be acknowledged and praised.

Of course, he still has to win on Saturdays in October, and that won't happen right away, but...I am an pretty cynical guy who is feeling quite optimistic right now. I still think that it's infinitely easier to fail in the SEC than succeed and I'm still leery of Jones's supposed "success" at Cincy, but I hope, I really really hope, that Coach continues to prove my initial assessment totally, 100% wrong.

So far, he is doing just that. Everyone is predicting that UT won't accomplish more than it did last season, but I think Jones will pull 7 wins and a bowl win. If he does that, then UT will be able to recruit lights out.

Go Vols!

TnOrange4Life writes:

We gonna be singing Rocky Top all night long !

sidwalkvol writes:

in response to voloffaith:

All I saw was "losing is a disease." Reread article and no use of that ugly condition.On topic, we have the right coaches and in time 2-3 yrs will be in the mix , for the east if not all of it. Depends if Saban and Miles move on.........

That is a quote from The Natural, when the manager brings in a "two bit carney hypnotist" (a half-pint psychologist") to talk them out of losing... "Losing is a disease...ah, but curable."

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to KnoxVegas88:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Got that right Knox..GA; FLA and Bama all have long winning streaks and it makes mad as h%ll we can't bet FLA. This team seems fired up and Iam sure they are sick of losing..Not feeling too warm and fuzzy about Worley. This team could go in the crapper if Worley has to spend 6 games getting his act together. An upset at Oregon would knock the college football world on their butt

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to notfunanymore:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

STFU..

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

STFU..

Beare,

Pity the idiot instead of acknowledging him.
This jerk thrives on any attention he can get, so remember "he's not funny anymore." Just a freakin' troll.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"Jones hasn’t won a game at Tennessee. The only contest he’s coached was internal."

I gotta disagree. Jones is winning on the recruiting trail and in the SEC (this is what Dooley was never able to do). Jones is beating out Bama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia for Recruits. If Jones does nothing else at UT, that is pretty amazing, especially considering how UT has been wandering in the wilderness for the last six years. He deserves credit for succeeding in the most competitive high school athletics recruiting market in the country.

I was critical of the guy when he was hired, but so far he's proven me and everyone else critical of his ability to recruit to be wrong. That deserves to be acknowledged and praised.

Of course, he still has to win on Saturdays in October, and that won't happen right away, but...I am an pretty cynical guy who is feeling quite optimistic right now. I still think that it's infinitely easier to fail in the SEC than succeed and I'm still leery of Jones's supposed "success" at Cincy, but I hope, I really really hope, that Coach continues to prove my initial assessment totally, 100% wrong.

So far, he is doing just that. Everyone is predicting that UT won't accomplish more than it did last season, but I think Jones will pull 7 wins and a bowl win. If he does that, then UT will be able to recruit lights out.

Go Vols!

"This is the biggun Lizbeth. I'll be the one with the power T on his chest

GerryOP writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"Jones hasn’t won a game at Tennessee. The only contest he’s coached was internal."

I gotta disagree. Jones is winning on the recruiting trail and in the SEC (this is what Dooley was never able to do). Jones is beating out Bama, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia for Recruits. If Jones does nothing else at UT, that is pretty amazing, especially considering how UT has been wandering in the wilderness for the last six years. He deserves credit for succeeding in the most competitive high school athletics recruiting market in the country.

I was critical of the guy when he was hired, but so far he's proven me and everyone else critical of his ability to recruit to be wrong. That deserves to be acknowledged and praised.

Of course, he still has to win on Saturdays in October, and that won't happen right away, but...I am an pretty cynical guy who is feeling quite optimistic right now. I still think that it's infinitely easier to fail in the SEC than succeed and I'm still leery of Jones's supposed "success" at Cincy, but I hope, I really really hope, that Coach continues to prove my initial assessment totally, 100% wrong.

So far, he is doing just that. Everyone is predicting that UT won't accomplish more than it did last season, but I think Jones will pull 7 wins and a bowl win. If he does that, then UT will be able to recruit lights out.

Go Vols!

Really great post ... and I totally agree. How this "Jones-guy" has come in here and taken control is absolutely amazing! Whatever he's selling these kids the kids are buying. It looks like even the press-wienies are starting to pay attention.

I think that our footVols are going to surprise a lot of people this year. Let's see how '13 goes before we start worrying about '14 or '15. Coach Jones seems to have things under control.

Thanks for the great, honest, positive post.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Really great post ... and I totally agree. How this "Jones-guy" has come in here and taken control is absolutely amazing! Whatever he's selling these kids the kids are buying. It looks like even the press-wienies are starting to pay attention.

I think that our footVols are going to surprise a lot of people this year. Let's see how '13 goes before we start worrying about '14 or '15. Coach Jones seems to have things under control.

Thanks for the great, honest, positive post.

Well...don't get too excited. I was one of the guys leading the criticism of Dooley. I don't believe in optimism or positive thinking for its own sake. If Jones goes 5-7 with the schedule and talent he's got, I'm not going to be optimistic at all. My metric is year to year improvement. That's something that Dooley never did and a whole lot of people, you included, didn't want to admit.

If Jones sucks, then he sucks and I'll be right back on these boards calling for him to be fired. If he's mediocre, then I'll say he's mediocre and call for him to be fired. He gets appreciation for winning on the recruiting trail and on gameday, not for sitting in the coach's seat (he gets a salary for that).

GerryOP writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

Well...don't get too excited. I was one of the guys leading the criticism of Dooley. I don't believe in optimism or positive thinking for its own sake. If Jones goes 5-7 with the schedule and talent he's got, I'm not going to be optimistic at all. My metric is year to year improvement. That's something that Dooley never did and a whole lot of people, you included, didn't want to admit.

If Jones sucks, then he sucks and I'll be right back on these boards calling for him to be fired. If he's mediocre, then I'll say he's mediocre and call for him to be fired. He gets appreciation for winning on the recruiting trail and on gameday, not for sitting in the coach's seat (he gets a salary for that).

Are you aware that Coach Dooley was fired last year? Time to move on.

As for me, I will always support the Vols ... because that's what fans should do. Does not mean I agree with everything a coach or player does, but I still support and defend them. I guess I believe "If you can't say anything good, say nothing at all."

That "Jones-boy?" So far so good ... and I support him because he's the head coach of our footVols. I do believe, and hope, he will do well. Unlike some on here, I would never say under almost any condition (except maybe Dooley's 1st year or two when he had nothing to work with) that a 6-6 season is a success. But I would still limit my criticism of him.

johnlg00 writes:

Gerry, that is because you are not just a fan, you are a gentleman. I would go so far as to guess you are the type who feels honored to be called a gentleman. Fandom seems to be such a challenge for some people! Glad that's not our problem! GBO!!! GO BUTCH!!! GO ZO!!!

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