It’s official. Tennessee gave head coach Butch Jones a raise on Monday that is expected to be worth an annual salary of $4.1 million, according to Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The deal raised Jones’ previous salary by $500,000 but did not give him an extension on his contract, which runs through the 2020 season.
“Butch Jones has done an outstanding job leading this football program on and off the field,” athletic director Dave Hart said in a statement (via Brown). “As I said recently, Butch has brought stability to our program. When we hired Butch (three) years ago, he laid out a vision of how he wanted to build this program back to where we all want it to be. We have made great strides, however, it remains an ongoing process.”
That still doesn’t explain why this move was necessary if Tennessee is content with its agreement through 2020. This is basically, “Hey, let’s just give this guy more money for the sake of giving him more money.”
But, like Hart noted, Tennessee has suffered through several years of misfortune, and sadly, an 8-4 season warrants a raise in Knoxville. That is, excluding the fact that Jones and his staff were the key reasons for three of those losses, but I digress. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The mindset from Tennessee’s athletic department is, “What if someone comes after Jones? We need to give him more money so he’ll stay!”
Fact is, no one else wants Jones, though. No one was pursuing him this offseason.
He’s still an unproven coach who has game management concerns. Sure, Tennessee should be an improved team in 2016, but what if it isn’t? What if the Vols ceiling is eight or nine wins in a winnable SEC East?
Well, because of this deal, now Tennessee would face an even larger buyout should it fire Jones before 2020.
Tennessee would owe Jones $2.5 million for every year left on his deal for terminating him without cause, the Times Free Press reported. His previous buyout was $2 million per year.
Earlier this month, I said extending Jones would be a hasty move when news of negotiations between the coach and athletic department began to spread. Now that it has happened, I’m still in disbelief that I spent several years paying tuition to a university that clearly has no idea what it’s doing. I’m all for someone making money, but it’s not like Jones’ previous salary was anything meager. Sure, he was among the bottom-tier of SEC coaches, but has he done anything to prove he’s in the elite company of the SEC’s top coaches?
No. Not yet at least.
Granted he’s made tremendous progress building Tennessee back to respectability. But even still, he doesn’t have the track record to take a long-term gamble. Remember, in October the majority of Tennessee fans wanted him gone and a win against an overrated Georgia team — as well as a “moral victory” loss at Alabama — changed their minds.
As an alum, I’m fine with him getting another season in Knoxville. He’s improved the program and his record each season. But he already had several more years remaining on his contract and a fair salary based on where the team finished in the standings.
Tennessee is a program that continues to break its own fan’s hearts, so nothing here is really surprising. I hope I’m wrong about this decision, but right now it still seems too hasty.