Even after another loss, the Butch Jones train at Tennessee continues to chug along.
The Volunteers blew a late lead at Kentucky on Saturday night and lost 29-26, dropping their record to 0-5 in SEC play and 3-5 overall. It would not have been a surprise if Jones did not make it through the weekend employed, but there he was Monday addressing reporters ahead of his team’s homecoming matchup with Southern Miss.
After Saturday night’s loss, Jones said he “absolutely” expects to have the support of athletic director John Currie for the rest of the season. Jones reportedly met with Currie on Sunday and, naturally, speculation swirled.
Jones conceded it’s been a “challenging month,” but said “nothing has changed” when it comes to the support he is receiving from Currie, who landed in Knoxville from Kansas State in February. Jones said he speaks with Currie “every day” about “anything to everything.”
But would a public statement of support from Currie help matters, including for the players?
“No,” Jones said. “For our players, just like us, it’s back to work for another week. They’re ready to go just like our coaching staff. It’s a week-to-week season as we talk about. It’s all about Southern Miss and getting ready to play in Neyland Stadium for homecoming.”
Later Monday, Currie appeared on a local radio show and said he evaluates every athletic program on a daily basis. He admitted he is frustrated with the win-loss record, but didn’t seem like he plans to make any big decisions in a rash manner.
“I know folks are frustrated with the win loss record. I am too. Coach Jones is. We all are. I believe right now the most important thing to do is to support our players,” Currie offered. “Those seniors have three more times running through the ‘T’ and I know there will be a lot of great Tennessee fans there supporting them Saturday night.”
Jones wouldn’t say if he has received any assurances from Currie regarding his job beyond the 2017 season. When it comes to the the season in general, though, Jones said he is “very disappointed” in the team’s record, but not “discouraged.”
“I understand the expectations of Tennessee football and so do our players. It’s been one of those years,” Jones said. “When you look, I think we’ve had four games come down to the final play of the game. It’s being able to close games out.
“Just like anything, things don’t always go according to plan and we always say football is life just sped up a lot faster. That’s truly what it is and what you have to do is continue to just go about your business and work to be better for it.”
The Vols, after going 9-4 the past two seasons and failing to capture the SEC East title, can finish the regular season with no more than seven wins. The fans are really unhappy about it, so much so that some are trying to organize a boycott of Saturday’s game because Jones still has his job.
Disgruntled University of Tennessee fans are taking to Twitter with a new hashtag – #EmptyNeyland – calling for the boycott of Saturday’s homecoming football game if head coach Butch Jones isn’t fired. Following Saturday’s 29-26 loss to Kentucky, momentum picked up behind #EmptyNeyland, which is calling on fans to boycott Saturday’s homecoming game against Southern Miss if Jones is not fired.
“If Butch Jones is the head coach Monday this is what Neyland needs to look like next Saturday night,” tweeted one Twitter user along with a photo of an empty Neyland Stadium.
Jones understands the fan frustration.
“I understand everybody being upset. If I was a fan, I’d be upset too,” Jones said. “I bleed with them but I understand we need to win some football games and I’m going to do everything in my power for our players, for our university, and for our program to get that done.”