Former Tennessee Vols head coach Butch Jones turned a lot of folks off during his time on Rocky Top with his cheesy slogans and bizarre statements about football (remember the champions of life quote?).
Jones was a bit over the top with his slogans, but they served a purpose. They were used for motivation.
That’s one of the most important parts of being a successful college football coach — being able to motivate college athletes.
For a couple of years, Jones was able to do that via his cringeworthy tactics (DAT way still echoes in my mind).
When things started going south, the slogans became a reminder of Jones’ ineptitude. When he was eventually fired, fans didn’t want another coach that used the same methods. That’s why names like PJ Fleck at Minnesota weren’t popular in the 2017 coaching search (Fleck is well known for using cheesy motivational tactics).
Vol fans got their wish with Jeremy Pruitt — a no-nonsense head coach that is all about X’s and O’s. Pruitt was refreshing after watching Jones stumble his way through press conferences for five years. But that no-nonsense approach is exactly why I think Pruitt is failing right now at Tennessee.
Pruitt isn’t a motivator. If you look at all the great coaches in college football, they’re all great motivators. Even Nick Saban tends to get a bit cheesy with his talk about “the process” and not looking at the scoreboard.
Saban uses words and phrases like the process, standard, positive attitudes, not focusing on outcomes, being all you can be, focus on what you can control. Those are all similar things to the principles that Jones was trying to teach at Tennessee (he just sounded awful when he tried to teach it).
When the Vols search for their next head coach (whenever that day comes), they shouldn’t shy away from a coach like Fleck or Matt Campbell at Iowa State or anyone that comes across as a great motivator. That’s what college athletes need in a head coach. It’s what a college football program in general needs — a high energy environment that motivates players and the coaching staff/support personnel.
Pruitt has sucked the energy out of Tennessee. The program is lifeless right now.
It’s time to go in the opposite direction.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports