Cincinnati's Butch Jones accepts UT's head football position

Cincinnati's Butch Jones accepts UT's head football position

December 8th, 2012 by Patrick Brown in Sports College08football

Butch Jones, the new football coach for the University of Tennessee, holds a helmet with athletic director Dave Hart during a news conference Friday. Jones replaced Derek Dooley after a 19-day coaching search.

Photo by Patrick Smith/Times Free Press.

IN THE CONTRACT

Tennessee released its Memorandum of Understanding with new head football coach on Friday afternoon. Here's the key points:

* Six-year deal worth $2.95 million per year that runs through Feb. 28, 2019

* One-time signing bonus of $500,000 due on Jan. 31

* Performance incentives: $500,000 for a national title, $150,000 for an SEC title, $350,000 for appearing in a four-team playoff, $300,000 for a BCS bowl bid, $100,000 for a top-10 AP poll finish and $50,000 for a top-25 AP poll finish, among other bonuses.

* Academic incentives: $50,000 for an Academic Progress Rate score of 945, $100,000 for an APR score of 965 or higher and a $50,000 penalty for APR score below 930.

* Jones would owe $4 million if he left before Feb. 28, 2014, $3 million if he left before Feb. 29, 2016, and $2 million if he left before the contract's end date.

* To buy out the rest of Jones' deal, Tennessee would owe $2 million per year remaining on the origin contract term.

* Tennessee paid the $1.4 million buyout Jones owed Cincinnati for terminating that contract.

KNOXVILLE - A wanted man wanted to be Tennessee's head football coach.

After a tiring third week of its search for that new coach, Tennessee's program found its match.

Enticed to stay at Cincinnati, courted by Kentucky and Purdue and offered the coaching job at Colorado, Butch Jones couldn't ignore one particular suitor.

When the Volunteers came calling Thursday morning after other options fell through, the 44-year-old Michigan native jumped at the chance to take a day later what he called his dream job.

"I think I was my wife's third choice, and it's worked out for 20 years," Jones joked during his introductory news conference inside the Peyton Manning Locker Room at Neyland Stadium on Friday afternoon.

"I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I'm very instinctual. I trust my gut. Taking my name out of consideration for other jobs had no bearing on the University of Tennessee, and then it came along. It was a tremendous opportunity, and I'm very fortunate and very proud."

Tennessee tabbed Jones to replace Derek Dooley, whom it dismissed 20 days ago after the Vols sealed their third consecutive losing season, a streak of struggles unseen in more than 100 years.

In six seasons at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones posted a 50-27 overall record, won Mid-American Conference titles in 2007 and 2009 and shared the past two Big East Conference titles. The Chippewas lost just three MAC games under Jones, while the Bearcats are 19-6 the past two seasons. Jones followed current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to both programs.

Jones now is branching out to the SEC, college football's most challenging conference.

"We'll be working to be champions each and every day," Jones pledged with a slight twang in his voice that gave away his Midwestern roots. "We will be a champion in everything that we do. We'll start from day one to start our culture.

"We have great, great expectations for this football program. I know that we live in an instant gratification society and everybody wants everything at once, but I will tell you this: inch by inch, inches make the champion. We're going to go to work, and I don't know how long it'll take, but I'm going to tell you you're going to be proud of this football team."

Tennessee's pride, though, took a hit this week as its search, led by second-year athletic director Dave Hart, hit some roadblocks.

Louisville's Charlie Strong and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy spurned offers so they could remain at their current jobs, while North Carolina's Larry Fedora didn't want to leave after just one season in Chapel Hill. Former Super Bowl-winning NFL coach and current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said thanks, but no thanks, to Hart's early contact.

"Life doesn't throw us all fastballs," Hart said. "It throws us curves, and then you've got some screwballs. You have to be able to adjust.

"It was a complex environment, and you know it's going to be when you go into a coaching search, quite honestly. If you offer the job and somebody takes it or somebody doesn't, you move on, and you feel confident in going to the next guy. I think it was stated very, very well by Butch that things do work out and things do work out for the best."

Yet Jones was on Hart's original short list of a half-dozen candidates. Hart consulted Kelly and former Florida and current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, two coaches he labeled as Jones' "mentors." Yet one look at one of his key indicators was more telling.

"Has he won everywhere he's been?" Hart said. "He has. When you can win everywhere you've been, that tells me a lot."

Other programs were listening, too.

Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock said at his news conference Friday morning that "no less" than five BCS programs wanted Jones, though Hart was the lone athletic director to follow the gentleman's agreement of contacting the other school's athletic director for permission to speak with that program's coach.

The Bearcats threw what Babcock called a "significant increase" to a salary of roughly $1.75 million and facility renovations and enhancements at Jones to entice him to stay. Purdue interviewed Jones on Sunday before Colorado came calling, eventually showing Jones what Babcock said was an "impressive list" of an offer.

Minutes after Jones and his wife, Barb, decided Thursday morning to stay at Cincinnati, Hart called. After a Christmas party for Tennessee athletic department personnel at Neyland Stadium, Hart and one other Tennessee official left at 10 p.m. to meet Jones in Lexington, Ky.

The overnight meeting ended with Jones accepting Tennessee's offer, informing his athletic director at 5:15 a.m. and telling his old team two hours and 15 minutes later.

"I knew he was weighing the Colorado job, I knew he had been offered a couple of other jobs and I knew he felt secure at Cincinnati," Hart said. "It was about 20 minutes into [our meeting] when I could see genuine passion. It wasn't artificial when he said, 'Dave, this is my dream job,' and I knew it was coming from his heart."

As signs began to point to Jones' hire, Tennessee's fan base took to social media and Internet message boards to protest the hire of a coach who lost to Dooley last season and lacks SEC experience. A handful of national writers praised Tennessee for the hire.

Aware of his challenge at Tennessee and exuding a confident blue-collar energy, Jones pointed to Alabama's Nick Saban and LSU's Les Miles, successful coaches who entered the league lacking SEC experience and carrying Michigan ties.

"My focus is on winning championships here," he said. "I think if you look at our body of work, there hasn't been a more successful program that ours, and there hasn't been coaching staff who's had more success than us. It's a body of work, and the only thing we can do is prove it to them.

"I look forward every day to proving it to them."