ESPN impounded half the SEC football coaches on Tuesday, dressing up the seizure as a “car wash.”
Butch Jones made the trip, ducking into a morning charter flight bound for Bristol, Conn. According to the ever-watchful eye of social media, he and his University of Tennessee entourage, including son, Alex, left Knoxville at 7:20 a.m.
Arriving on ESPN’s campus, Jones was joined by Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida’s Will Muschamp, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. One imagines them looking at each other and collectively saying, “Why are we together again?”
The six just traversed SEC Media Days last week — a three-day circus functioning as a feeding frenzy for ESPN. As did the SEC’s eight other coaches, who all likewise traveled to Bristol on Monday.
Nonetheless, Jones dusted off his playbook of catchphrases and buzzwords Tuesday.
The “car wash” angle is meant to elicit the idea that coaches will be scanned, scrubbed and appraised by the network’s stable of talking heads.
Something like that.
So Jones embarked on the assignment. He wore a grey suit, orange-on-orange striped tie, white pocket square and Power T lapel pin. He smiled for ESPN programs “College Football Live,” “SportsCenter,” “College GameDay” and “Highly Questionable,” and participated in a live online chat and a podcast.
Referred to by ESPN’s Chris Fowler as, “The new boss at Tennessee,” Jones was live nationwide at 2:40 p.m. He told Fowler the key to rebuilding Tennessee will be “the standards and expectations that you abide by every day” and the Vols need to become “a better football team second by second, minute by minute, day by day and month by month.”
When asked for the best piece of advice he’s received since coming to UT, Jones dusted off, “When you compete in the SEC, every day is like fourth-and-1 for the national championship.”
Same quotes. Different day.
Don’t blame Jones, though. Most politicians don’t make as many public appearances as he does.
In an afternoon live chat with ESPN online users, Jones turned his normal verbiage into cyber-speak. One morsel of news came early when Adam from Knoxville asked Jones if he’d “be wearing the orange pants during football games?”
For the uninformed, the Ghost of Derek Dooley now resides in those trousers. Which is why it was surprising when Jones answered, “Still in the evaluation process. That could be a very good possibility.”
UT fans brushing aside office duties to follow the online chat may have panicked.
Later, the News Sentinel learned it was all a false alarm. Jones was referring his team wearing orange pants, not himself.
When asked by Josh in Chattanooga how much he and his staff works, Jones said, “Myself and our coaches probably in a week put in between 80-90 hours.”
Perhaps Tuesday could have been better used as a day off.
Jones would be unlikely to agree. Repetitive or not, he’s proved he’ll stay on message and deliver it wherever, whenever he’s asked.
Even in a car wash.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball and football. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn