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UT Hires Cincy's Butch Jones

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UT Hires Cincy's Butch Jones

Post  Carolina Kat on Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:52 pm

Butch Jones takes Tennessee job

Updated: December 7, 2012, 9:40 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Tennessee has hired Butch Jones, calling a Friday afternoon news conference to introduce the coach who is leaving Cincinnati.

Jones takes the job after declining an offer to become the new coach at Colorado. A six-year contract was finalized with the Volunteers early Friday, sources told ESPN, and Cincinnati said Jones had resigned his position with the Bearcats effective immediately.

The Volunteers have called a Friday afternoon news conference to introduce Cincinnati's Butch Jones as their new head coach.
"I would like to thank Butch Jones for his time at the University of Cincinnati," athletic director Whit Babcock said in a news release. "With that said, we are excited about the future of this program and this job will be extremely attractive nationally. Our search will begin immediately."

At Tennessee, Jones will succeed Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three years. Dooley posted a losing record in each of his three seasons at Tennessee, the first time since 1909-11 the Volunteers have finished below .500 three straight years.

Friday's news caps a whirlwind week for Jones.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Jones had accepted a five-year, $13.5 million offer from Colorado before Jones denied the report in a text to ESPN.

On Monday, Jones interviewed with Colorado after earlier interviewing at Purdue. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Jones participated in bowl news conferences, promoting the Bearcats' Belk Bowl berth, in Cincinnati and Charlotte.

The 44-year-old Jones has a 50-27 record in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years. Jones now faces the task of rebuilding a former Southeastern Conference power.

Jones' hire also ended a tumultuous week for Tennessee. The Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said Thursday he had turned down their offer and would stay at Louisville.

Jones will become Tennessee's fourth coach in a six-season stretch, not including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's stint as interim head coach in the 2012 season finale after Dooley's dismissal. Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008 after posting a 152-52 record. Lane Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for Southern California. Dooley lasted three years.

After winning at least eight games for 16 consecutive seasons from 1989-2004 and posting double-digit wins in nine of those years, Tennessee hasn't earned more than seven victories in any of its last five seasons. The Vols went 5-7 this fall for their fifth losing season over the last eight years.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said at the start of the search that head coaching experience was "critically important" and that he wanted a coach who "knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC." Jones lacks SEC experience, but he has a career winning percentage of .649. Jones' teams have earned at least a share of a conference title in four of his six seasons as a head coach.

After succeeding Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones maintained the momentum his predecessor had established at each school.

Central Michigan won two Mid-American Conference championships and posted a combined league record of 22-3 in Jones' three-year stint. Jones went 4-8 in his first year at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats are 19-6 since and have tied for first place in the Big East each of the last two seasons. Cincinnati's 2011 season included a 45-23 loss at Tennessee.

Jones signed a contract extension after the 2011 season that includes a $1.4 million buyout if he leaves before Jan. 1.

Jones' background as an assistant is entirely on offense, but one of his biggest challenges at Tennessee initially will be strengthening a defense that allowed the most points (35.7) and yards (471.4) per game of any SEC team this season.

The Vols hadn't allowed that high a scoring average since 1893, when they gave up 42.7 points per game while playing a six-game schedule. They hadn't yielded that many yards per game since at least 1950, the earliest year Tennessee's sports information department has that statistic on file.

The makeup of Jones' first offense at Tennessee also remains uncertain, at least for now.

Starting quarterback Tyler Bray and star wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter all are projected as first- or second-round draft picks if they choose to turn pro rather than returning to school for their senior seasons. Bray threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns this year to rank second on Tennessee's single-season list in both categories, behind Peyton Manning's 3,819 yards and 36 touchdown passes in 1997. Hunter caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Patterson gained a school-record 1,858 all-purpose yards.

Junior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James also has been mentioned as a possible draft candidate.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPN.com's Chris Low and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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