By Alex Norman
Back on November 12th, Tennessee fired Butch Jones as its head football coach. Since then the Vols had seemingly hired a coach (Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano), only to see a fan revolt squelch that move.
They offered the job to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, only to be turned down. They seemingly had a deal with Washington State’s Mike Leach. But then athletics director John Currie was fired by UT Chancellor Dr. Beverly Davenport. He was replaced by Phillip Fulmer, who would hire Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the 26th head coach in Vols history.
The Vols have had an early signing period, and eventually a National Signing Day. They’ve announced a start date for spring practice (March 20) and a date for the Orange and White Game (April 21).
So yeah, there have been a lot of changes going on at Tennessee.
But one thing has stayed the same.
Butch Jones on the Jumbotron.
Back in October 2014, Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart wanted his head coach on the Jumbotron, so the decision was made to replace Phillip Fulmer (152-52 record at Tennessee, two SEC titles, one national championship) with Butch Jones (7-9 record at Tennessee).
At the time there was no protest or really much of any public discussion on the move. Tennessee never put out a press release or had an unveiling. They did send a statement to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
“The images are changed out by the Vol Network and the athletics department periodically. This is for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to portray our rich history as well as our current brand. Also, from time to time, the sun and weather elements affect the images and they need to be changed out.”
Once Jones was fired, fans began to look to the skies and wait for his removal from one of the most visible structures on the UT campus.
But it didn’t happen that week… or after the regular season… or before key recruiting visits…
On January 2nd, a Tennessee fan tweeted at Dr. Davenport, wanting Jones to be removed. She responded “Please hang on. A crane has been ordered.”
Making a change on the Jumbotron isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Apparently there aren’t a lot of cranes available for rent that can do the job.
On Valentine’s Day, Fulmer spoke at the Big Orange TipOff Club, and gave the attendees an update.
“We will have an announcement. That will be changed as soon as we can. Believe me, I would have done it yesterday if I could have.”
We are now past the three month point, and the former coach is still up there. This should serve as a teaching moment for the University of Tennessee. For all of its positives, that structure is not easily accessible. You can’t have a current player or coach on the Jumbotron for this exact reason. There should only be a select few that you go to when changes are going to be made.
Neyland, Fulmer, Majors… Manning, White, Atkins… Holloway, Berry, Wilson… You can make a case for Lauricella or Shuler too. But those are the key guys from a core group that no fans can really argue against any of their inclusions.
Eventually, Butch Jones will be removed from the Jumbotron.
Tennessee, don’t overthink it. Go with the guys that built the program.