The University of Tennessee announced on Dec. 7, 2012 the hiring of Butch Jones as the 24th head football coach of the Vols. Jones owns a 70-44 record (.614) in nine seasons as a head coach, and his teams have earned bowl appearances in seven of his first nine seasons as a head coach. Jones is 42-26 (.618) in conference play, 59-5 when leading at halftime and 59-6 when leading after three quarters. Jones joined UT from the University of Cincinnati, where he finished with a 23-14 record (.657) in three seasons with the Bearcats.
Jones has led the Vols to an 8-4 regular-season record in 2015, marking Tennessee’s first eight-win season since 2007. Under Jones, UT also earned bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons for the first since 2009-10. Tennessee finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak, marking the the Vols’ longest streak since winning the final five regular-season contests of 2007.
In 2015, Tennessee has one of the nation’s top rushing attacks. The Vols rank 22nd in the nation and second in the SEC with 2,682 rushing yards through their first 12 games, their most since 1989 (2,701). Jalen Hurd (1,158 rushing yards) produced the 18th 1,000-rushing-yard season by a Vol in program history. UT’s special teams have also been a strength for the Vols this year as the Big Orange leads the nation in kickoff return average (33.41) and ranks second in punt return average (18.26). Evan Berry is the country’s top kick returner (38.3 average) and he is just one of four players this year with three kickoff return touchdowns. Cameron Sutton leads all punt returners with an 18.7-yard average and is one of 11 players with two brought back for touchdowns. Punter Trevor Daniel ranks sixth in the nation and second in the SEC with a 45.6-yard average. The Vols’ defense leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally with a .277 opposing third-down conversion percentage.
Tennessee finished its second season under Jones with a 7-6 record that included a 45-28 win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville which marked the first January bowl game for UT since the 2007 season. The Vols opened the 2014 season by playing 21 true freshmen in a 38-7 win over Utah State, the most true freshmen to play in a season opener in UT history. Overall, Tennessee led the nation overall this season with 23 true freshman playing in 2014, with 12 true freshmen starting games for the Vols during the season.
Jones and his staff have been relentless on the recruiting trail since arriving in Knoxville. Under Jones' leadership, Tennessee has signed consensus top five recruiting classes in each of the last two years, marking the first time in school history the Vols achieved such lofty status. Jones has prioritized the state of Tennessee in his recruiting efforts, and the 2014 class featured the overwhelming majority of the top talent in the state of Tennessee signing with the Vols, including Freshman All-American and All-SEC performer Derek Barnett, a multitude of Freshman All-SEC players (Barnett, Todd Kelly, Jr., Jashon Robertson), and team's leading rusher in 2014, Jalen Hurd. The 2015 recruiting class already features 10 early enrollees and a prospective class that should rank in the Top 10 again this year.
A staple of Jones' programs has been success in the classroom, and the UT program has also made great strides academically during his tenure. The program has posted the highest team GPAs in program history during their tenure, including a record 2.85 in Spring in 2015 and previous record mark of 2.77 GPA in the Fall of 2014.
Nearly 100 Vols posted GPAs of 3.0 or better during the 2014-15 academic year with 46 players earning honors in the Fall of 2014 and 52 more in the Spring of 2015. Both marks were records when they were established.
The program has also increased its cumulative GPA in each of the last six semesters. Additionally, the Tennessee program also posted the best APR scores in program history in each of his first two semesters as head coach, including a perfect 1000 score in Spring 2013 and no eligibility points lost in either semester.
Graduation is a top priority for Jones, as 14 of 18 seniors on the 2014 team have already received their degrees, with the other four on track to do so by either May or August 2015. A total of 21 of 24 seniors from the 2013 team have graduated, with two in the NFL and on track to do so through the RAC (Renewing Academic Commitment) program and the other having graduated from the Knoxville Police Academy.
In his first season on Rocky Top, the Vols defeated No. 11/9 South Carolina, the first win for UT over a ranked opponent since 2009. The win over the Gamecocks in 2014, when the Vols trailed by 14 with less than two minutes remaining, marked the biggest comeback in school history that late in a game. The comeback was led by quarterback Josh Dobbs, who signed with Tennessee as a part of Jones' first recruiting class at UT. Also in 2014, the 95 combined points against South Carolina (45) and Kentucky (50) are the most for Tennessee in consecutive games since 2003, while the 50 points and the 34-point margin of victory over Kentucky (50-16) are the most for UT since 2010.
UT rushed for 2,261 yards in 2013, the most for the Vols since 2004 and their second-highest total since 1999. The Vols' opportunistic defense in 2013 forced 25 turnovers, tied for the second-most by a UT defense since 2005. UT also played the toughest schedule in the nation in 2013, including seven ranked teams.
Jones was also the head coach for three years at Central Michigan (27-13, .675, from 2007-09) and has posted three nine-win seasons (2009, 2011, 2012) and a pair of 10-win seasons, finishing 11-2 at CMU in 2009 and posting a 10-3 record and top 25 final national ranking with Cincinnati in 2011. Jones has also finished the season ranked in the top 25 in three of four seasons from 2009-12 (2009 with CMU and 2011-12 at Cincinnati).
Jones has won four conference championships in his eight seasons as a head coach, including the Big East title in 2011 and 2012 with Cincinnati and the 2007 and 2009 Mid-American Conference titles at Central Michigan. He earned Big East Conference Coach of the Year honors after his 10-win season with the Bearcats in 2011 and earned the same honor from CBSSports.com in 2012, a year in which his squad captured its second consecutive bowl victory and finished in the Top 25. UC finished the regular season 9-3 with a 5-2 league record to share the Big East crown.
In 2011, Cincinnati was the only program nationally to win both its conference title and its league top academic honor, earning the 2010-11 Big East Team Academic Excellence Award, with JK Schaffer being named the 2011 American Eagle Outfitters Big East Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the second consecutive UC player to earn that honor (John Goebel in 2010).
The 2011 UC team was the most improved team from a BCS conference in 2011, finishing 10-3 and six wins better than the 4-8 finish in 2010. Cincinnati also recorded its first bowl win over a BCS opponent, defeating Vanderbilt 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl. UC placed eight players on the All-Big East Conference team from 2011-12, including Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe in 2011.
Before accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati, Jones's 27-13 record at Central Michigan included a pair of MAC titles, three consecutive bowl appearances, and a No. 23 postseason ranking in 2009. The Chippewas were 22-3 in the MAC during his tenure, and he was the only head coach to lead the program to consecutive bowl games as well as the first in the history of the MAC to do so in his first three seasons.
In addition to Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown, Jones also recruited and coached offensive lineman Eric Fisher at CMU, was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Joining Fisher in Kansas City was another Jones product, Travis Kelce, who was selected in the third round after playing at Cincinnati.
Jones was the wide receivers coach at West Virginia from 2005-06 before he moved to Central Michigan, during which time the Mountaineers went a combined 22-3, including a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. He served as an assistant at Central Michigan for seven years from 1998-2004, as offensive coordinator (2002-04), running backs coach (1999-2004), and as tight ends coach (1998). Jones was also the offensive coordinator at Ferris State from 1995-97 and at Wilkes University from 1993-94 and also served as an assistant at Rutgers from 1990-92.
Jones is a 1990 graduate of Ferris State University in Michigan, where he was a two-year letterman on the football team. His original entry into the coaching ranks was as an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1987-89. Jones and his wife, Barb, are the parents of three sons: Alex (18), Adam (14), and Andrew (8).