While Tennessee could still technically finish the season with a record of 9-3 or 8-4, it appears that Butch Jones’ tenure as the Vols’ coach is officially coming to an end.
That does not necessarily come as a surprise; Jones’ future as Tennessee’s coach has appeared to be perilously close to over as the Vols have lost three consecutive games to start SEC play.
But sources have told AllThingsVol that details of Jones’ buyout have already been negotiated, as Tennessee gets set to travel to Tuscaloosa to face top-ranked Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are a 36.5-point favorite in Saturday’s game, which would drop the Vols to 0-4 in SEC play.
Multiple sources connected to insiders at the Tennessee athletics department told AllThingsVol that it is official that Jones will not return to Tennessee for the 2018 season, and that his buyout has been determined. Jones’ contract awards him $2.5 million per year — prorated — if he is fired before the contract ends in 2020. However, we’re told that a modified buyout has been negotiated.
That contradicts published reports from as recently as Friday that indicated Tennessee athletics director John Currie has not determined Jones’ future.
Former Tennessee player Albert Haynesworth stoked Internet rumors on Thursday when he tweeted that “Great news is on the horizon for us VFLs!!! It is just a matter of when! Thank you Mr. Haslam for trying to make Tennessee great again!”
Some speculated that Haynesworth was referring to a decision to fire Jones, while others suggested the vague tweet meant that a replacement for Jones had already been selected. However, Leonard Little — who, like Haynesworth, was a defensive lineman at Tennessee during the Phillip Fulmer era — tweeted that Haynesworth’s tweet was “not what people are implying.”
While the true nature of Haynesworth’s tweet was not clear, sources told AllThingsVol that Jones’ future has been determined and he is on his way out as the Vols’ coach, regardless of how the team performs at Alabama on Saturday.
Still, though Jones’ future at Tennessee appears to have been determined, those who are well connected to the program appear to be largely in the dark on exactly when he will coach his last game. It has been suggested that an announcement will be made after Tennessee’s game against Alabama tomorrow, but it’s also been suggested that Jones will coach the Vols during next week’s trip to Lexington to face Kentucky.