CFN Analysis: Butch Jones To Tennessee
Posted Dec 7, 2012

The CFN Instant Analysis of the move of Butch Jones to Tennessee

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

What should be the first point of emphasis for Tennessee fans and national college football observers in the wake of the hiring of Butch Jones by Dave Hart in Knoxville?

Let the man rise or fall on his merits in the fullness of time.

So many of college football's problems – as an industry, as a community, as a sport with a 12-game season that so often fails to definitively separate Team A from Team B – flow from its inability (and, at times, unwillingness) to allow for the possibility that a coach or player or school can make the grade, when in fact that coach/player/school deserves a chance to take the field and prove (or disprove) everything the critics say.

We should want Northern Illinois to have this chance to prove itself on the field. If it flops, it or one of its brethren will not get a similar opportunity anytime soon. If it succeeds, though, it will have earned itself a place of prominence and respectability, as it damn well should.

We should want the Heisman Trophy to be contested by players on 7-5 teams. We should want the body of work produced by a Marqise Lee or a Tavon Austin to be recognized as one of the four or five most outstanding bodies of work generated in college football this season, even though USC and West Virginia were immensely disappointing and – especially in the case of WVU – removed from the media spotlight in the final five weeks of the season. We should want merit to decide arguments and contests, not hype or reputation.

Today, Tennessee fans and other national writers, you're certainly free to voice doubts about Butch Jones. There's nothing wrong with that. His odd play selection on a crucial fourth-and-short situation inside the Rutgers 10-yard line, not to mention his insistence on sticking with backup quarterback Brendon Kay in a game of such magnitude against the Scarlet Knights, led to one of the worst single-game coaching performances of the 2012 season. Jones was extremely and conspicuously resourceful with Cincinnati in 2011, and that season is really what won him the Tennessee job today, but yes, this doesn't seem to be the home-run hire the Volunteer Navy was looking for. That's fine and understandable, and it's not as though that voice or perspective should be muffled.

However, let's let Jones prove himself on the field.

Pete Carroll wasn't USC's first choice. Jim Tressel wasn't Ohio State's first choice. Nick Saban wasn't Alabama's first choice. Jim Mora, Jr., wasn't UCLA's first choice a year ago. You didn't have a clue about who Chip Kelly was when he joined Mike Bellotti's staff at Oregon. Les Miles was not a slam-dunk hire at LSU. Jim Harbaugh was not this airtight, sure-fire superstar when Stanford hired him.

Let's be Americans in the best sense of what it means to be American: Let's allow a man, whether 40 or 50 or 30 or 60 or (Bill Snyder second go-round alert) 70 to prove himself on the field. Your move, Butch Jones. Let's wait two years to weigh in on the move Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart made today.