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Tennessee finally acknowledges the inevitable, firing football coach Butch Jones

13 November 2017

Tennessee began the season in the Top 25 and is ending it with a coaching change.

It was widely assumed that Jones would be the next SEC head coach to go after Florida fired Jim McElwain, and many expected Tennessee to make the move sooner.

UT announced Jones' firing on Sunday following a 50-17 road loss to Missouri a day earlier. Ever since back-to-back home losses to Georgia and SC earlier this season, it has seemed likely that Tennessee would move in a different direction at the end of the year.

Defensive line coach Brady Hoke will reportedly serve as the interim head coach for the last two games of the season as the Vols try to become bowl eligible. Currie said he was looking for someone "with the highest integrity and character, with the skills and vision to propel Tennessee to championships".

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Hoke has 12 years of experience as a head coach, most recently at MI from 2011-14.

Jones was sacked Sunday before completing his fifth season.

Jones was making $4.1 million annually and has a contract that runs through February 28, 2021. How clear could it be that Tennessee was completely outmatched and Jones needed to be dismissed? But things went downhill after that in Ann Arbor, with back-to-back losses in lesser bowls, a 6-10 record in the Big Ten over his final two seasons and a 5-7 record to get him fired in 2014.

Tennessee last won an SEC championship in 1998, the same year the Vols won the national championship with an unbeaten 13-0 record. According to the letter of dismissal Currie sent Sunday, the school owes Jones a buyout of $8.26 million. The Volunteers now hold the seventh-best recruiting class for 2018, although it will be up to Jones' replacement to hold those recruits for next season. The Vols also have never lost eight games in a season.

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Under Jones' watch, Tennessee's football program dramatically improved its Academic Progress Rate, which had been so low at the start of his tenure that the school was at risk of facing penalties.

Unfortunately for Jones, his time at Tennessee was also marred by an array of bad losses, including a 24-21 defeat at the hands of SC in 2016 and a 45-34 loss to Vanderbilt later that season.

"I have tremendous respect for Coach Jones and for (Jones' wife) Barb", Currie said.

The major off-field issue during Jones' tenure was a Title IX lawsuit filed against the school past year by eight unidentified women accusing Tennessee of having a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes.

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Jones was head coach at Central Michigan for three years and Cincinnati for three, both times following Brian Kelly, before coming to Tennessee to replace disgraced Derek Dooley, who was 16-21 in three years UT.

Tennessee finally acknowledges the inevitable, firing football coach Butch Jones