New Deal for Butch Jones… The Right Move?

By Alex Norman

Welcome to the four million dollar club, Butch Jones!

Last week Tennessee announced that the Vols football coach was receiving a $500,000 raise, bringing his total compensation up to $4.1 million per season.  Jones is under contract through the 2020 season.

In a statement released by the University of Tennessee’s Sports Information Department, Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said, “Butch Jones has done an outstanding job leading this football program on and off the field.  As I said recently, Butch has brought stability to our program. When we hired Butch four 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.  Most importantly, we have the right leader to get us to our ultimate destination and we are rewarding him accordingly.”

“Obviously, (I’m) very thankful,” said Jones.  “We’ve had a supportive administration led by Dave Hart and Chancellor (Jimmy) Cheek and we all win with this. I think it’s an illustration of the support they have given us ever since we came here. It’s gratifying in terms of they see what we’re building. They see what goes on here. But it’s really all about the players. It’s about our coaching staff; it’s about everyone in our football organization. So really it’s a tribute to them and everyone associated with our football program.”

Jones added, “It’s more evidence of what we’re building here.  The stability that this program has.  It helps in recruiting.  You can talk about it but now the recruits see it.  It kind of takes away some of the questions by your players as well.  So I think it’s just very, very healthy.”

That’s all fine and good, but is a guy that is only three games over five hundred in his three seasons at Tennessee worthy of a salary that high?  It’s no secret that Jones and this coaching staff have had late game meltdowns at the worst possible times.  Look no further than the Oklahoma and Florida games earlier this season.

As incredible as it might sound to those of us that don’t make seven figures… Butch Jones’s salary is probably right around what he should be making right now.  And here are the reasons why.

First of all, bringing Jones into the four million dollar club is in line with what the rest of the SEC is doing.  There are now eight coaches making at least four million dollars a year in the conference.  That’s obviously not counting the recently fired Mark Richt at Georgia and the recently retired Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, who were each at that level in 2015. Heck, Kirby Smart is making $3.75 million a year to be the new coach at Georgia, and he’s never been a head coach before!

Secondly, have you seen how much money these athletic departments in the SEC make?   Donald Trump would blush.  According to AL.com, in 2014-2015 the SEC made $455.8 million, a new NCAA record.  That translates into $31.2 million per school.   Ticket sales are up at Tennessee, which means more popcorn, more t-shirts, more Smokey Grey jerseys flying off the shelves.  And Tennessee is only one year away from no longer paying Derek Dooley $100 grand a month! (Yes, his buyout is still going on).  All these SEC schools have money now, and just about all of them are ready, willing and able to spend it.

Third, the one thing Tennessee has needed since the firing of Phillip Fulmer in 2008 above all else is stability.  Butch Jones has brought that stability to the Vols.  Look around the rest of the SEC East.  South Carolina, Missouri and Georgia all have new coaches.  Vanderbilt and Kentucky are likely one more bad year away from firing their coaches.  Tennessee and Florida are the most stable programs in the league.

Look, no one is saying that our priorities aren’t completely screwed up in a world where a football coach makes millions while school teachers struggle.  But that’s what we have, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

So sure, $4.1 million a year for Butch Jones is probably the right thing to do.

What a world.

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