Moving on from Jones
As the Tennessee Volunteers wind down their 2017 College Football schedule, new Athletic Director John Currie is faced with some tough decisions as it relates to Head Coach Butch Jones. We’re not just talking about whether or not to keep the embattled 5th year coach, there are some major financial impacts on the decision, both short term and long term.
The Volunteers have a 4-6 overall record this season with an 0-6 conference record through nine games. Remaining games include a road contest at Missouri and home games against LSU and Vanderbilt. Getting to six wins will make the team bowl eligible, but is considered a major letdown after recent recruiting classes, as well as two-straight 9-win seasons the last two years.
Fans are not happy with how the team has performed in big games. In crucial games against SEC rivals Georgia and Alabama, the Volunteers were beaten by a combined score of 136-24. That’s called not even being competitive. After the Georgia beatdown, many thought Jones was living on borrowed time, but he’s still there.
The decision to move on from Jones will clearly have some financial factors. First, buying out the final three years of his contract will cost the school at least 6 million if they wait until the end of the season. Should they bail on him sooner, add a prorated amount for this year. Second, should they decide to bring in a high-profile candidate to replace him, add several million more per year beginning next year for the new coach.
Assuming that Tennessee fails to qualify for a bowl game this year, there is also the money the team would have received, which most likely would be around 3 million.
But Currie also needs to think about the recruiting picture. Potential recruits are now able to sign letters of intent in December, and with the team having already seen three players from their 2018 class decommit, they should be praying there aren’t any more. They originally had 23 total commits and were ranked # 6 in early rankings.
If the team decides to fire Jones now, how many of those potential recruits will also decommit, causing a weaker incoming class and possibly weakening the team long term. Does Currie wait until December to make the move and have another coach in place quickly to attempt to keep as many recruits as possible?
All major universities rely on their football program to provide important revenue to help fund their athletic programs as well as the academic side of the University. So you can see this is an important financial decision for Currie. If Tennessee decides that the football program will not get better under Jones, it’s in their best financial interest to move on to a coach who they feel will. In the short term, the cost of the buyout, bowl revenue and recruiting concerns can’t be denied. With all the money at stake, one would hope Currie as well as other members of the administration have consulted the bean counters and figured out the cheaper road to take while trying to salvage the program.
Long-term, however, is getting the program to the top of the SEC, and playing in major bowl games and competing for championships. Currie has to understand that, his current plan of laying low and saying little is not playing well with fans and could potentially sway new coaches from considering the job. One thing is for sure, when this dismal season is over, Volunteer fans should have a pretty good idea of how good of an Athletic Director John Currie is.
Anthony Crotty - Voltalk Writer