KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Many Tennessee fans already have made up their minds: Fire Butch Jones!
Why else would so many irrational people strike out at Tennessee athletic director John Currie simply because he encouraged Vol Nation on Sunday night to support a tennis player who had made the finals of a tournament?
Who cares about tennis when you should be cutting ties with your football coach was the reasoning.
But will Jones actually be fired at some point in the next five weeks?
Before we tackle that question, let’s clear up a few things.
First, Jones’ roughly $8 million buyout is not reduced if Tennessee does not make a bowl game.
Second, Jones’ agent, Jimmy Sexton, has not been negotiating a buyout compromise due to the offset language in Jones’ contract that says UT can reduce its payout to him if he gets another job.
If Jones survives at Tennessee, you can bet Sexton will address that issue. But not at this time. As you might know, mitigated contracts for coaches is not Sexton’s style. Two Tennessee coaches fired in the past decade represented by Sexton – Phillip Fulmer and Derek Dooley – didn’t have offset language. Fulmer got $6 million, Dooley $5 million.
In fact, I don’t know of any coach represented by Sexton who has a mitigated provision.
But back to the issue of Jones.
Contrary to some others in the media, we said last week that Jones would not be fired last Sunday if he lost to Alabama. He wasn’t.
Some of those same sources are mixed on whether Jones will be fired if the Vols lose at Kentucky on Saturday.
The consensus from my sources: If it’s close, maybe he stays; if it’s not, he’s gone.
I’m not convinced Jones gets fired if he loses at Kentucky, but I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if he does. The majority of fans already have turned on him. I’m not sure about the key boosters or the administration.
You will hear a lot of misinformation over the next few days about Jones’ status, but here are the things I believe.
I believe Currie doesn’t want to fire Jones and I believe Jones has to give Currie a reason to keep him.
I believe if Jones wins out, he will be Tennessee’s coach in 2018 – if he wants to stay.
I believe anything short of a 5-0 finish and Jones is gone. You might argue that he could survive at 7-5 if the defeat is a close one to LSU. But I think it’s unlikely.
I believe Tennessee’s ineptness on offense makes it difficult for Tennessee to finish even 4-1.
I believe Tennessee without running back John Kelly – suspended for the Kentucky game for a drug citation – will struggle to score more than 14 points against the Wildcats.
There are a couple of X-factors: Home attendance for the Southern Miss game November 4 and the input from Jimmy Haslam and Peyton Manning.
And I believe this: Currie won’t tweet about tennis this weekend.
(You can follow Jimmy Hyams on Twitter @JimmyHyams)