Vols' Butch Jones embracing SEC media debut

photo Butch Jones, the new football coach for the University of Tennessee, speaks at the Bradley Sunrise Rotary in June.

KNOXVILLE - Butch Jones made his media day debut as Central Michigan's new football coach at the Mid-American Conference's annual event in 2007.

Six years later, that league is offering fans the opportunity to cover its media day with a simple online application, and Jones is set to experience the biggest and most daunting of media days.

The first-year Tennessee football coach, joined by Volunteers offensive tackles Ja'Wuan James and Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and defensive end Jacques Smith, will make the rounds at Southeastern Conference media days Wednesday at the hotel formerly known as the Wynfrey in Hoover, Ala.

"I've been already warned about it," Jones joked during an interview with Knoxville radio station WNML's morning show late last month. "I'm looking forward to it. Again, that's just, I think, what makes the SEC different, is the fan base, the passion, the excitement, the pageantry of college football.

"I wish we had about eight more months to continue to develop this football team, but I know we're all anxious to get started."

First, though, Jones must navigate an event that will include more than 1,000 credentialed reporters from newspapers, web sites and television stations across the Southeast and an expanding number of radio stations broadcasting live from the hall below the large interview room.

It's been an eventful trip for previous Tennessee coaches.

Philip Fulmer skipped media days in 2004 when SEC commissioner Mike Slive was notified that an attorney for two former Alabama assistant coaches involved in the Crimson Tide's NCAA violations case would serve the Vols' coach a subpoena. He instead conducted his interview session via teleconference. The SEC fined Tennessee $10,000 for his absence.

Four years later, Fulmer was served a subpoena to testify in an Alabama booster's defamation lawsuit against the NCAA when he arrived for media days.

In his lone media days appearance in 2009, Lane Kiffin came and went without fanfare instead of delivering on expectations he'd continue to toss verbal jabs at Florida and the Vols' other conference rivals.

Derek Dooley's first Hoover appearance came two weeks after the infamous Bar Knoxville brawl. Last year he ended his appearance by declaring the SEC was "not going to have Tennessee to kick around anymore"; of course, the Vols lost their first seven SEC games and Dooley lost his job.

Jones may not make similar headlines.

Tennessee shares a day with five other teams, a slate that includes the SEC's three other first-year coaches (Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Bret Bielema of Arkansas and Kentucky's Mark Stoops). Wednesday's headliner certainly will be Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The Vols' session (12:20 to 2 p.m.) isn't long after the Aggies' contingent comes and goes.

As he does the same, Jones is unlikely to alter drastically the approach, demeanor or message that's produced a positive offseason.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

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