KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones wasn't Tennessee's first choice as its next football coach. The Volunteers believe the former Cincinnati coach will prove he's the right choice.
Tennessee introduced Jones on Friday as its successor to Derek Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Jones becomes the Volunteers' fourth coach in six seasons, ending a tumultuous couple of days for both parties. The new Vols coach said he was taking over the best college football program in America.
We'll be working to be champions each and every day, Jones said. We will be a champion in everything we do. That's not only on the field but off the field.
Jones, 44, 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. He now faces the task of rebuilding a former Southeastern Conference power that has posted three consecutive losing seasons.
Tennessee went after at least two other candidates before hiring Jones.
During the 19-day search to replace Dooley, 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.
Rarely in life is anything exactly what it seems to be, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. Life doesn't throw us all fastballs. It throws us curves, and then you've got some screwballs. ... You've got to be able to adjust.
Jones, meanwhile, was apparently waiting for a job like Tennessee.
On the same day Strong made his announcement, Jones rejected an offer to take over Colorado's program. He also had been linked to the Purdue coaching job before withdrawing his name from consideration.
Jones jumped at the Tennessee offer. He called it his dream job and didn't particularly care that he wasn't the Vols' first choice.
I think I was my wife's third choice, and it's worked for 20 years, Jones said.
Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock said Jones told him Thursday morning that he was rejecting Colorado's offer. Mere minutes later, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart called Babcock to express his interest in contacting Jones. Babcock said he gave Jones 24 hours to make a decision on whether to stay or go, if Tennessee offered. Babcock said Jones notified him of his decision Friday at 5:15 a.m. and informed Cincinnati's players at a 7:30 a.m. team meeting.
It's been kind of a whirlwind, Jones said.
Jones' hiring means each of the four Southeastern Conference teams that fired coaches this year has filled its vacancy.