The reaction last weekends game was on one level completely understandable and almost justifiable. UC went into Neyland stadium still searching for that program defining and validating non conference win and came up short. Again. That in and of itself is a reason to be disheartened, upset or just plain angry. I am 100 per cent on board with that train of thought. Maybe not with the metric tons of bile that is being carried by it, but I get what it is and where they are going. The coaching staff seemed out of sorts, no one but Butch Jones really loved the gameplan on either side of the ball and the players didn't respond to adversity particularly well. These are legitimate points of contention in my view. I agree with some of them, and I disagree with others but that is just the way of world.
But there is a large and exceedingly vocal subset of fans that views last Saturday's game not as one data point in a string of 12 or 13 from which to cobble together an accurate summation of what this 2011 Bearcats Football team really was like. They used the game to scream that the sky was falling at the top of their lungs. Given the chance I would half except this group of people to gather their pitchforks and torches and march on the Lindner Center.
This attitude is something that I really don't get. At all. I see and hear constant refrains to Jones stopping the momentum that the program built up over the course of the Kelly era. That he is going to ruin all the good work that Kelly did ect. And that in order to prevent these terrible consequences from coming due Butch Jones has to be fired today. Not tommorrow, not at the end of the year but right now. In other words these people viewed the Tennessee loss as the harbinger of impending doom. That this loss was going to single handedly send the Bearcats Football program straight back to the dark ages of the late 70s and 80's. This is of course ignoring the fact that the Football program is in as stable a position as it has been since the late 40's and early 50's with solid conference affiliation, an affiliation that is poised to get even stronger with the impending demise of the Big 12. But still this vocal minority really wants Butch Jones fired.
This line of thought over looks two key points. OK it overlooks a lot of key points regarding why it would be a stupid, stupid idea to fire Butch Jones just 14 games into his tenure. The big one is that UC has an Athletic Department that is insolvent and 1 can't easily afford to buy out the three remaining years of the contract at roughly 3,150,000. The second reason why it would be stupid relates to the first one. After paying out 3.15 million dollars to buy out the rest of Jones contract there would be no money in the coffers to go and hire a quality coach to bring back the magic.
Is Butch Jones a great coach? No. But truth be told that's not what UC needs at the moment from its Football coach. What is needed is someone who will stay on the job and set about doing to slow, laborious work that comes with building a sustainable program. What Kelly did in his three years was amazing. But it also wasn't exactly sustainable either. Kelly didn't recruit particularly well here. He found some players yes, but on the whole he recruited to a very average level. The continuing issues with over all depth lie at the feet of BK. That might not be particularly satisfying to some who want to string up Jones by his neck on Fountain Square, but its the truth.
That doesn't mean that Jones hasn't made mistakes here at UC. Because he has made his fare share of them, both on a Macro and Micro level. It is safe to say that bringing back the entire staff was a mistake. Continuity for continuities sake. Tim Banks is three steps behind almost any offensive coordinator he will face and Kerry Coombs secondaries have gotten progressively worse since peaking in the 2008 season. But Jones is still a relatively young coach and is clearly learning on the job at times. Do I wish he had spent a decade honing his craft at the lower levels of the sport? Yes. But that isn't his CV.
I have no doubts that Jones will succeed here at UC in the long run, but that might just be because I don't quantify success in the "BCS or bust" terms that some do. He is gifted with some things that UC coaches in the past would have died for, like a supportive administration, quality facilities, a burgeoning booster base and real and quantifiable interest in the program throughout the city, and if the sources of DTDs visitors are any indication the rest of the state as well. If you want to see it this way the fact that such a vocal portion of the UC fan base wants him fired after his first 14 games really hammers home that last point. For most of the programs history that kind of performance wouldn't raise a single eyebrow. There are a thousand different reasons why the dark ages aren't coming back through that door in a minute. And if you think that Butch Jones can single handedly revive those days you can think again.