Wiedmer: Can positive leadership from coach Butch Jones lift the Vols? [videos]

Wiedmer: Can positive leadership from coach Butch Jones lift the Vols? [videos]

July 11th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Tennessee NCAA college football coach Butch Jones speaks during the Southeastern Conference's annual media gathering, (AP Photo/Butch Dill), Monday, July 10, 2017, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Photo by Butch Dill

Related Article

Butch Jones, Tennessee players defend program's progress [videos]

Read more

HOOVER, Ala. — Much as he had with Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema and LSU's Ed Orgeron earlier in the day, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey introduced Tennessee coach Butch Jones to the media at the league's football media event Monday.

According to Sankey, upon welcoming Jones to the conference's spring meetings in Destin, Fla., last month, the coach told the commish he needed to read Jon Gordon's motivational book, "The Power of Positive Leadership."

Then, as usual, Coach Cliche spent the next 30 minutes displaying that upbeat philosophy during his time at the podium, as perfect an example of positive leadership as is likely to be seen during the event's remaining three days, especially since the most successful of those coaches is the often grumpy Bama boss Nick Saban.

And as should be the case with all the league's 14 coaches, the Jones pep talk began with what should be the most important point regarding his players' long-term futures; academics.

"Just four and a half years ago, our program was facing the potential APR penalty, and now that's a thing of the past," began Jones, recalling the mess he inherited from Derek Dooley at the close of the 2012 season.

"For the second year in a row we'll graduate 100 percent of our seniors in our program. We have 67 players on this year's football team that have a 3.0 (grade point average) or above. And on the last two bowl wins, we've had 26 college graduates participate in those bowl games."

But he was just getting started.

"On the field, we're very proud of the fact that we're one of only three (SEC) programs that have won (at least) nine games two years in a row. We've been very fortunate to have three straight bowl victories, first time in 20 years in our great program's history and tradition, but there's so much more out there. There's so much more out there to be accomplished, and we've only started."

Some in Big Orange Nation might want those accomplishments to match the hype. Ranked in almost everyone's Top 10 in last year's preseason, the Volunteers earned a final ranking of 22 after toppling Nebraska in the Music City Bowl to finish 9-4.

Yet when Jones was asked if last season was a disappointment, he remained unfailingly positive, despite confounding losses at South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the season's final five games.

"I don't view it as a disappointment," he said. "The way I view it is we didn't accomplish everything we set ourselves out to do. But I think all you have to do is look at it's difficult to win (in the SEC) and it's difficult to win championships. But I'm still proud of the way our team responded. And I told our football team this: The lessons you learned from last year, the resolve, the resiliency, are going to serve you for many years down the road in life."

The Jones haters, of whom there reportedly are many, no doubt will despise those words as they did his quotes about last year's team leaders being "champions of life" and possessing "five-star hearts."

That particular segment of the Big Orange Nation seemingly wants to see Jones suffer along with them, to shout of his disappointment over having yet failed to beat Alabama, or reach the SEC title game, or even a top-tier bowl game.

And if Jones expects to see a sixth Media Days or beyond, he might want to start producing 10-win (or better) seasons rather than nine-victory campaigns.

Yet shouldn't every UT fan feel better about the program today than when Jones took over? The Vols have beaten Georgia two years in a row. They knocked off Florida this past season. His team started off 5-0 a season ago before too many injuries to count and the spoiled brat Jalen Hurd derailed the victory train. Nor should the Vols' academic success and overall scarcity of off-field issues be ignored.

Beyond that, his players' thoughts Monday deserve mention and thought.

Said defensive lineman Kendal Vickers when asked about Jones possibly being on the hot seat this season: "It's a little disrespectful. When I got here, we were 5-7 and I was redshirted. Things were bad. For us to win three straight bowl games. He's changed this program so much, and he's done everything he's possibly been able to do to change the culture at Tennessee."

Added defensive back Emmanuel Moseley: "Coach Jones, he's a positive guy. He's very positive; he knows that that's what we need as a team."

Reasonable fans can argue over this approach until or unless the positive leadership of Jones produces an SEC championship, or at least a spot in the SEC championship game. Otherwise, the negative view that Coach Cliche can't return the program to the championship form it showed in the 1990s will have some merit.

Yet this last bit of the UT coach's positive leadership also deserves consideration, if only because Moseley so strongly believes that's what this Big Orange bunch needs to succeed.

"When we set off four years ago building this program, we knew it wasn't going to be a quick fix," Jones said. "We wanted to build something that would be the foundation would be set for many, many years, and that foundation is set for success."

Given his success beyond wins and losses only, Jones would seem to be onto something. Yet given the apparent angst of the Big Orange fan base, should the Vols again fail to win more than nine games, one can't help but wonder how many more years he may have to make a positive impact on UT football.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

Related Article

Vols' coach Butch Jones open to two-quarterback situation [video]

Read more
Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com