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Tennessee AD Hart “Very Pleased With Where The Program Is Headed”

gfx - they said itThe record was the same.  Tennessee finished 5-7 in Butch Jones’ first year, same as Derek Dooley’s record in his final season in Knoxville.  But that’s just about where the comparisons end between the Vols’ new coach and their old one.

Just ask athletic director, Dave Hart, the man who made the switch from one to the other:


“I think Butch Jones has verified everything that we thought he would bring to the team.  He has galvanized all of our constituents.  He’s a tireless worker with unlimited energy, it seems.  I’m very pleased with where the program is headed…

We very much have the same goals, the same priorities.  That won’t be a snap-your-fingers and it’s done (fix).  But eventually there’s no question we’ll get to our destination…

I see (the players’) understanding of what it’s going to take to get the program back where we all want it.  And we will get it back to where we all want it.”


That will be easier said than done.  Phillip Fulmer went a decade without an SEC crown and suffered through two losing seasons in his last four as the talent level at UT dipped.  Lane Kiffin then tried to put out the fire with gasoline, annihilating the Volunteer roster by leaving after only one season.  A panicked hire of Dooley — a coach with a losing record at Louisiana Tech — and Jones took over a program lacking depth, talent and speed on its roster.  He also inherited a fanbase that ran out of patience long before his arrival.

But Tennessee got a “signature” win with the SEC’s biggest upset of the year over South Carolina.  The team’s academics improved as the school narrowly avoided APR-related sanctions.  Jones has won over ex-Vol lettermen who were practically banned from campus under Kiffin and Dooley.  And most importantly, he’s done a good enough job selling UT’s history and facilities to build the nation’s #2 ranked recruiting class.

Still, coaches are judged by wins and Volunteer fans aren’t likely to enjoy what will probably be another six- or seven-loss team next year.  If Jones can weather some unfair grumbling, his third team should begin to show improvement in 2015.  At that point, we’ll begin to see if Hart is right about the man he hired last December.

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Ex-Vol Coach Fulmer Says New Vol Coach Jones Faces “Lots Of Challenges”

phillip-fulmer-today-in-sweaterFormer Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, speaking at a Chattanooga school on Monday, weighed in on the job current Vol coach Butch Jones inherited:


“It’s going to take time.  When you go through three coaches in four or five years… Butch has lots of challenges…

Butch is a guy I’ve come to really appreciate and respect.  I think (taking in a recent practice at Jones’ request) was good for me and I think it was good for the university.  It was certainly good for my family, and all it was about was to be there to support.”


How far have the Vols fallen since the heady days of the late-80s, 90s, and early-2000s?  Fulmer had this to say about Saturday’s contest: “Georgia is a really, really fine football team.  Hopefully we’ll keep it close and in the fourth quarter make a play that wins the ballgame, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

When your talent level ranks about 12th or 13th in the SEC, yep, you just gotta hope you can keep it close.

On a sidnote, Fulmer showed class when given the opportunity to fire a barb at his immediate replacement, Lane Kiffin.  Asked about Kiffin’s ouster from Southern Cal.  “It’s a big business, and I’m sure there was some frustration there.”


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APR Results A Reflection Of Academics… And Coaching Stability

mortar-board-on-footballWant to know what a football program must do to score highly on the NCAA’s academic progress reports?  First, get kids to class.  That’s obvious.  Second, make sure those football players get consistent leadership from someone they respect.

The NCAA released the latest round of football APR numbers yesterday — the scores are a four-year rolling average from 2008-09 through 2011-12 — and here’s how the SEC’s schools fared:


1.  Missouri 982 — The league’s newest member lived up to its AAU reputation in Year One.  Gary Pinkel has been at Mizzou for more than a decade.

2.  Alabama 978 — Not bad for a BCS champ, no?  Nick Saban has been coaching (and winning) in Tuscaloosa since 2007.

3.  Vanderbilt 973 — Would you expect anything less from Vandy?  The Commodores had three coaches between 2008 and 2012, but, again, it’s Vanderbilt.

4t.  Florida 968 — Another AAU school.  Very good numbers despite one coaching transition.

4t.  Georgia 968 — Not an AAU member but certainly one of the SEC’s more respected academic institutions.  Also, Mark Richt has been running the UGA program for more than a decade.

6.  Mississippi State 967 — Dan Mullen has been at State since 2009.

7.  South Carolina 966 — Steve Spurrier is entering his ninth season in Columbia.

8.  Texas A&M 954 — One coaching change, outside this window.

9.  Auburn 950 — Another school with a coaching change this past season.

10t.  LSU 944 — Les Miles has been in Baton Rouge for nearly a decade, so this number is a bit surprising.  However, the Tigers have had a large number of NFL early-entrants in recent years.

10t.  Ole Miss 944 — Houston Nutt entered in 2008 and exited after 2011.  That’s basically two coaching changes within this APR window.

12.  Kentucky 943 — Two coaching changes overall including this past offseason.

13.  Arkansas 938 — Bobby Petrino gave way to John L. Smith who’s given way to Bret Bielema his offseason.

14.  Tennessee 924 — Since 2008, UT has been coached by Phillip Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and now Butch Jones.  The Volunteers are below the 925 penalty-line, but Jones and the school are already working to improve the program’s academic scores.


Bottom line?  Stability at the top of the program leads to stability throughout the program.  Coaching changes lead to transfers and that impacts APR scores.  It’s no surprise that — for the most part — the programs with the SEC’s highest APR results have had the least amount of coaching turnover.  That works in reverse as well.

On a sidenote, many coaches and athletic directors have APR- or other academic-related bonuses built into their contracts.  Carolina’s Spurrier will get an extra $100,000 for his program’s score.  LSU’s Miles missed out on a $200,000 bonus because of the Tigers’ low number, but he can still earn extra scratch if a good percentage of his players reach a specific GPA level or graduate on time.

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Jones Works Overtime To Rebuild UT Football

gfx - they said itButch Jones says there’s no time for rest when it comes to rebuilding a perennial football power that’s fallen on hard times:


“I evaluate myself hour by hour, minute by minute.  Every night when I kind of slow down a little bit, I always replay the day over in my mind.  What would you have done differently?  How could you have done it better?

I think that’s all part of being a competitor, but I think the big thing is making Tennessee football better each and every day, whether it’s interacting with our fans, whether it’s recruiting, whether it’s developing our players.  That’s what we need to do to continue to grow and elevate our program back to its rightful place among the elite of college football.”


One of two dominant teams in the 1990s — along with Florida — Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC Championship Game since 1998 and hasn’t finished in the national top 10 since 2001.  Jones is fourth Volunteer coach in six seasons, following Phillip Fulmer (2008), Lane Kiffin (2009) and Derek Dooley (2010-12).



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WOW Headlines – 3/13/13

SEC Tournament Wednesday Night Results
Mississippi State 70, South Carolina 59
Texas A&M 71, Auburn62
Thursday SEC Tournament Games…
LSU vs Georgia…Tennessee vs Mississippi State…Vanderbilt vs Arkansas…Texas A&M vs Missouri
Florida’s Billy Donovan was named the SEC’s Coach of the Year
Georgia F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named the SEC’s Player of the Year
Vanderbilt DT Jared Morse is currently away from school after breaking a team rule, though coach James Franklin is hopeful he can return
East Tennessee State is considering re-starting its football program and on top of the school’s wish list of coaches is former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer
In 2011-12, Kentucky made $21.6 million in basketball revenue, tops in the SEC
Ole Miss made $5.9 in basketball revenue in 2011-12, the worst number in the SEC

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Texas’ Dodds Uses Fulmer, Saban To Defend His Football Coach

gfx - honest opinionFor a guy in another conference, DeLoss Dodds spends a lot of time talking about schools in the Southeastern Conference.  The Texas AD referenced a current SEC coach and a former SEC coach in an attempt to fend off critics of Longhorn football coach Mack Brown:


“I love stability.  I love continuity.  If you have stability, you have continuity and you’ve got good people.  It’s a formula that works.  I think we’ve got that.  If somebody tells me we need to change, I say, “Ok, but who should we hire?  (Nick) Saban?  Well, Saban isn’t going to come here.’ …

Mack does t so much better than everyone I’ve ever seen.  Instant gratification.  We want it right now.  And if it’s not working, we want to blow it up and get instant gratification.  In this kind of world, that’s not necessarily the answer.”


According to the reporter from The Daily Texan — the university’s student newspaper — Dodds also used the turmoil at Tennessee to defend his coach:


“Dodds pointed out that after Tennessee let go of Phillip Fulmer following several mediocre seasons, the Volunteers didn’t recover.  They went 23-37 in the last four years under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, who was fired last November.  Dodds doesn’t want that to happen to Texas.”


With regards to Saban, Brown is right… he won’t leave Tuscaloosa for Austin.  It’s not easy for even the biggest schools to snag proven, big-name coaches from big-time programs.  Florida’s last three head coaching hires have been two assistants and a guy from Utah.  Oklahoma’s last hire was an assistant.  Ohio State hired a man out of retirement to follow a man it hired from the FCS level.

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The Latest Coaching Gossip We’re Hearing At

The names we’re about to mention have all been mentioned to us by more than one source.  At least one of those sources — for each name — has been inside or close to the SEC program in question.  We’ve also spoken today with an industry source who’s provided a bit more information.  At any rate, we feel strongly enough about these rumors to float them to you as rumors.

Here goes:



John L. Smith status:  Done

Likely candidates:  Gary Patterson.  We wrote last month that we were hearing AD Jeff Long was strong on Patterson and now that story is only growing louder.  Check the web and you’ll quickly find that Patterson is building a house in the Fort Worth area, but if he sees Arkansas as a better and better-paying situation than the one he’s got at TCU, you can forget the house thing.  He can afford to build a bigger house in Fayetteville if need be.  We’ve been told “this one is all but done.”  Negotiations can always blow up and deals can always fall through.  We know that.  But if there’s no fire with the Patterson-to-Arkansas talk, then Long has put out one of the best smokescreens ever.  Patterson said today of the Arkansas rumors:  “I don’t think there’s anything to that.”  How’s that for a non-denial denial?  Tommy Tuberville — an Arkansas native — is also interested in the Razorback job.  Very interested.

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The Search Begins At UK: Keep An Eye On Cutcliffe, Dykes And Fulmer

Kentucky’s decision to replace Joker Phillips as head coach has officially opened the door on America’s annual speculation season.  The race to find out who UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart will hire is on and it will likely provide a landslide of misinformation, Twitter and messageboard rumors and, sadly, some flat-out lies (for the sake of grabbing pageviews).

That’s what the media provides these days.  Because that’s what fans want these days.

We can tell you that various outlets from The Lexington Herald-Leader to Kentucky’s Rivals site (paywall warning) to have already posted candidate lists and “hot boards” for fans to peruse.  In addition, John Clay of The Herald-Leader has tossed out longshot Mike MacIntyre of San Jose State as a possibility.  Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports writes — as we did a few weeks ago — that Bobby Petrino won’t be among the candidates, but a number of assistant coaches in the college and pro ranks will be.

At, we’ll simply pass along the three names that we’ve heard most often from folks in or close to the Kentucky program.  Names of men that we believe Barnhart will have an interest in speaking to.  Names of people who might also be interested in the Wildcats’ job.

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Wow Evening Headlines 10/29/2012

The SEC has five teams ranked in the top eight of the latest BCS standings…
#1 Alabama, #5 LSU, #6 Georgia, #7 Florida and #8 South Carolina
More than 1,000 people turn out in Columbia, South Carolina Monday afternoon to wish running back Marcus Lattimore a quick recovery and happy 21st birthday
Lattimore tore “several ligaments” in his right knee as it was hyperextended during Saturday’s game, not expected to be career-ending
Sources tell that Arkansas’ top choice as a new coach is TCU’s Gary Patterson
Sources tell that Jon Gruden and Bobby Petrino will be Tennessee’s top choices should the school fire Derek Dooley
Sources tell that Kentucky will have an interest in Phillip Fulmer, David Cutcliffe and Sonny Dykes if Joker Phillips is fired
Follow all the SEC news and scuttlebutt at on on Twitter at

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WOW Headlines – 10/29/12

The SEC has five teams ranked in the top eight of the latest BCS standings…
#1 Alabama, #5 LSU, #6 Georgia, #7 Florida and #8 South Carolina
South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore’s knee injury versus Tennessee on Saturday is not expected to be career-ending
Lattimore tore “several ligaments” in his right knee as it was hyperextended during Saturday’s game
Sources tell that Arkansas’ top choice as a new coach is TCU’s Gary Patterson
Sources tell that Jon Gruden and Bobby Petrino will be Tennessee’s top choices should the school fire Derek Dooley
Sources tell that Kentucky will have an interest in Phillip Fulmer, David Cutcliffe and Sonny Dykes if Joker Phillips is fired
Follow all the SEC news and scuttlebutt at every single day of the year

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