Tennessee football coach Butch Jones meets with the media Tuesday.
Phil Kaplan / USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
College football is all about emotion. Knee-jerk reactions are all about emotion, too, which explains why fans are so quick to scream for a coaching change.
But suppose you could eliminate emotion from the decision-making process.
Hmmm. Wonder what school we could use for an example?
I’ve got it. Let’s take Tennessee and fifth-year coach Butch Jones.
Some fans wanted Jones fired after last season when the Vols blew an SEC East championship after upset losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt. More fans jumped off the Butch Wagon after a last-second loss to Florida this season. And the majority of fans were ready for a new coach after a 41-0 loss to Georgia the last Saturday of September.
However, as the Vols prepare to take on South Carolina this Saturday, what if fans could cut their emotional ties? What if they could look at a coaching change strictly as a business decision?
The first thing that comes to mind is the cost. Colleague Blake Toppmeyer wrote recently that it would cost UT about $13.89 million to fire Jones now and his assistant coaches at the end of the calendar year.
You also would have to consider the impact a firing would have on the talent level of the program. For example, how badly would it affect the 2018 recruiting class, which currently is No. 6 nationally in 247Sports composite team rankings?
Then think about next season’s schedule, which opens against West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C., but is highlighted by a brutal midsection that begins with back-to-back games against Florida and Georgia the last two Saturdays in September.
News Sentinel sportswriters Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams take stock in Vols after loss to Georgia
After an open date, the Vols will play consecutive games against Auburn, Alabama and South Carolina. The Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina games will be on the road. Moreover, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia all could be top-10 teams. Is that schedule any way to break in a new coach?
An unemotional decision maker might conclude that it would be better to keep Jones and his staff for another season. After all, the financial savings would be considerable. And, even with a coaching change, it’s not likely the Vols would win the SEC with that schedule anyway. So why not tough it out for another season?
But you also have to consider the long-term ramifications, financial and otherwise. When Tennessee football isn’t going well, it impacts a lot more than popcorn sales at Neyland Stadium. Just ask a restaurant or bar owner the difference a Tennessee victory or loss can make. Also, ask anyone whose advertising sales are related to UT football.
Those businessmen are part of your fan base. They’re also part of your donor base.
You also have to think about your overall fan base. At what point does it start eroding?
Never mind how large and passionate that fan base is. It can only take so much. The Vols haven’t won an SEC championship since 1998 and haven’t won an SEC East title since 2007.
The fans’ patience will be tested even further if there’s no coaching change. What’s the price of that?
Reach John Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6284 and on Twitter @johnadamskns.