Butch Jones has had enough.
Not necessarily of his team underachieving due to his questionable on-field decision making, but of the media, and how the media covers his football team.
During his weekly Monday press conference, Butch told us that Evan Berry would miss Saturday’s game against Georgia and that both Jashon Robertson and Shy Tuttle would be good to go. However, what stood out the most was Butch’s closing statement, which is too extended and full of twists and turns to paste into one block quote.
So I decided to chop it up and address each point Butch made.
“Football is an emotional game, it’s a competitive game. The injury was caused not by a teammate, he landed on a helmet. And that’s the truth.”
Butch’s soliloquy was initiated by a question on how Shy Tuttle’s injury — which caused him to miss last weekend’s game against UMass — transpired. Based on this remark, it’s still unclear what happened, as our very own Austin Stanley pointed out. There’s no need to mention how “emotional” and “competitive” football is if the injury wasn’t inflicted by a teammate. If there was a scuffle during practice — which is common — then that’s understandable. Freak accidents happen all the time.
“We have to understand, what do we want out of our media? This place with the drama…again these are kids. We all have children. We’re all adults. Are we focused on Tennessee football, from a recruiting standpoint and all the positive things we’ve done? From all the positive things this football program brings to the community. This great fan base. Are we in the reality world of TV?”
This question really triggered Butch. A moment of curiosity, and opportunity to squash a rumor, turned into a head coach’s diary entry.
First, these players aren’t kids. Kids are kids. These players are maturing young men, and if they can’t handle criticism of their performance, in which thousands upon thousands of people invest time and money in to observe for personal enjoyment, then they should transfer to a school that’s absent any football tradition.
Secondly, it’s been expressed countless times that Butch has revived Tennessee’s program after the disastrous Derek Dooley era. He deserves credit for that.
Lastly, part of what makes sports so compelling for millions of people is that “reality TV” quality to it. Fans not only crave excellent play, but the off-field storylines drive fan interest through the roof.
“I think all of us as human beings have to self check ourselves. You may not like that answer, but I’m a father. I have three boys. I think we sometimes have to put ourselves in the role of a parent as well.”
There are sports journalists who are mothers and fathers, but when they are covering a press conference or a game, their job is to report and provide their audience with information.
“I understand you all have jobs to do. My expectation as the head football coach is I’m the caretaker of Tennessee football. I’m here to develop and grow a football program, recruiting the best possible student athletes to represent the University of Tennessee, and win football games and graduate our players. I take that very seriously. Also, I love our kids, and I’m going to protect our players and our program. And sometimes the negativity is overwhelming.”
If Butch understood the media’s job, he would’ve answered this question with one sentence and left it at that. Instead, he decided to filibuster, which will inevitably lead to even more media speculation.
“And if everyone are Vol fans, how do we let our opponents use this in recruiting process with fake news? We have to check ourselves; what are we here for? What are the values and principles that guide our life every single day? I appreciate everyone in this room. You guys have a job to do, and I’m respectful of that. I’m friends with a lot of you guys in the room and I appreciate it. But also, there comes a certain time when enough is enough. So, thank you. You guys have a great day. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. Go Vols.”
Butch legitimately used the phrase “fake news.”
Is there false reporting in sports media? Absolutely. Happens all the time.
But you know what isn’t fake news? Jalen Hurd — on the cusp of becoming the program’s all-time leading rusher — transferring to Baylor in the middle of last season… to become a wide receiver.
You know what else isn’t fake news? The Vols are 0-11 against top-10 teams during Butch’s tenure in Knoxville.
Want some more real news? Tennessee has dropped countless games since 2015 it had no business dropping.
What Butch still fails to understand is that at a program of Tennessee’s stature — 831 wins, six national championships, 39 consensus All-Americans — there will never be a shortage of attention. This isn’t Central Michigan or Cincinnati. The former is an afterthought in its own state, while the latter is barely relevant.
If Butch wants to avoid “reality TV,” then he needs to stop coaching and talking like a reality TV star, and focus on executing on the field.
As our very own Andrew Darago said, just go full Bill Belichick.
Butch knows his seat is warming up. By calling out the media, he didn’t cool it down. He just added more fuel to his own fire.