Cincinnati's Butch Jones has been hired as the new head football coach for the Tennessee Volunteers. (Source: WXIX)
(RNN) - Butch Jones has been hired as the next head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, according to ESPN.
Jones, 44, has resigned from his position as Cincinnati's head coach, effective immediately, according to the school's athletic director. A news conference is expected in Knoxville, TN, Friday to officially announce the hire.
Jones holds an overall head coaching record of 50-27, including a 23-14 mark with the Cincinnati Bearcats. His team tied for first in the Big East in 2011 and 2012, going 9-3 (5-2 in conference play) this year.
He replaces former coach Derek Dooley, who went 15-21 in his three years leading the Volunteers, with a 4-19 record against SEC teams.
Jones had been openly sought by multiple programs, including Purdue and Colorado. On Wednesday, the Denver Post reported he had taken the job with the Buffaloes, which Jones declined.
The Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said Thursday he had turned down their offer and would stay at Louisville.
Jones will become Tennessee's fourth coach in a six-season stretch, not including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's stint as interim head coach in the 2012 season finale after Dooley's dismissal Nov. 18. Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008 after posting a 152-52 record. Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for Southern California.
After winning at least eight games for 16 consecutive seasons from 1989-2004 and posting double-digit wins in 9 of those years, Tennessee hasn't earned more than seven victories in any of its last five seasons. The Vols went 5-7 this fall for their fifth losing season in the last eight years. This also marks the first time since 1909-11 that Tennessee has finished below .500 three years in a row.
Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said at the start of the search that head coaching experience was "critically important" and that he wanted a coach who "knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC." Jones lacks SEC experience, but he has a career winning percentage of .649. Jones' teams have earned at least a share of a conference title in 4 of his six seasons as a head coach.
After succeeding Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones maintained the momentum his predecessor had established at each school.
Central Michigan won two Mid-American Conference championships and posted a combined league record of 22-3 in Jones' 3-year stint. Jones went 4-8 in his first year at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats are 19-6 since then. Cincinnati's 2011 season included a 45-23 loss at Tennessee.
Jones signed a contract extension after the 2011 season that includes a $1.4 million buyout if he leaves before Jan. 1.
Jones' background as an assistant is entirely on offense, but one of his biggest challenges at Tennessee initially will be strengthening a defense that allowed the most points (35.7) and yards (471.4) per game of any SEC team this season.
The Vols hadn't allowed that high a scoring average since 1893, when they gave up 42.7 points per game while playing a 6-game schedule. They hadn't yielded that many yards per game since at least 1950, the earliest year Tennessee's sports information department has that statistic on file.
The makeup of Jones' first offense at Tennessee also remains uncertain, at least for now.
Starting quarterback Tyler Bray and star wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter have been projected as first- or second-round draft picks if they choose to turn pro rather than returning to school for their senior seasons.
Bray threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns this year to rank second on Tennessee's single-season list in both categories, behind Peyton Manning's 3,819 yards and 36 touchdown passes in 1997. Hunter caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Patterson gained a school-record 1,858 all-purpose yards.
Junior offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James also has been mentioned as a possible draft candidate.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.