Being Butch Jones means thinking outside the box for the betterment of Tennessee football, sacrificing family time and consistently striving to raise the bar in order to get the Big Orange back among the elite.
From the raising of the academic standards to just how tough being a college football coach can be on a family and much more, Jones gave his thoughts on a variety of topics.
InsideTennessee:The grade point average for the Fall semester. How do you achieve that? Is that the Thornton Center people? The right student-athlete? Just how do you achieve that?
Butch Jones:All of the above. It's a combination of hard work and efforts of many people involved. Again, they gets back to our greatest resource — people. It starts with the Thornton Center, led by Dr. Joe Scogin, Brian Russell, the entire staff, the programs we have in place. I think it's really a tribute to our players, to our student-athletes. Our No. 1 goal in our program is to graduate. You look at our seniors graduating. You look at all the college graduates we had on the field for the TaxSlayer Bowl. That's a lot of hard work. We expect a lot. We demand a lot. But it's all in the betterment and total development of the person. Our players have attacked it, and I am so proud of them because not only are we winning on the field now but we are definitely winning off the field as well.
IT:Along the lines of the NCAA Dead Period and the time you and your staff can spend with family but the wives. You guys are away from home a ton. I am sure it is probably a triple-digit workweek some weeks during the year. Just how do they deal with it all?
Jones:You have to have a strong wife and she has to understand the business. We do have great lives here. We've been together for a very long period of time. Our wives are best friends, but it takes a different individual. We miss most of our kids’ competition events whether it's basketball, whether it's football. That's why it really hit me when we boarded that plane to go to Jacksonville and stepped on the plane and looked down the aisle of the plane and there is everyone in our football family from our team to all of our coaches to our support staff and their wives and their children and I kind of took a deep breath and said, ‘Wow, this is a huge undertaking. Look at all the people that are truly affected by Tennessee football.’ It became kind of overwhelming and kind of emotional to me. It's big, it's very big. So, that kind of put things into perspective for me.
IT:Did you talk to anybody about that moment once you set down? I don't know who sits with you.
Jones:I sat next to Barb and said it's really kind of overwhelming when you look at it. Just how many lives are truly affected by Tennessee football. This isn't a hobby. This is our livelihood. This is us. We live and die with this football program minute by minute. There's no better program than Tennessee football, but it's a very big undertaking. So, when you see the progress that's being made, it's very fulfilling. But, we have a long way to go. Like right now, with this dead period in recruiting, I am reviewing everything from A-Z in our football program. It's constant, never-ending improvement. I call it ‘The Can I Principle.’ What can we do better? How can we improve? What things need to be added? Strengths? Weaknesses? Opportunities? Threats? Call that a SWOT analysis. All those things. What can we do to continue to thrive to be the best college football program in the country? How can we continue to develop our greatest resource, which is our players and our people in our organization. Everything is based off of people, everything is based off of family.
IT:Do you ever sit out with Barb in the few moments that you get together to relax and not just talk about the day but to reflect back to Ferris State or the Buccaneers or whatever to where you are now and go, ‘How the world did we do this?’ Or, ‘we're so lucky.’ Do you guys ever have that conversation because I am sure there is so much going on in your minds about how Alex's day went or one of your other boys?
Jones:Yes, but it may be a brief snap back to reality, a quick couple comments and laugh about it and then move on. But, absolutely. I think you have to always remember where you came from and how you got there through hard work and those many sacrifices made by many people along the way. That's the other thing that we talk about with the wives. They sacrifice each and every day for this football program and raising their own families. We had a great moment last night (Wednesday). I took our entire staff to Gatlinburg, and we went out to dinner. It was a way to just fellowship and say thank you. It was a great night. I think we all needed that. This staff is very, very close. Our wives become kind of their own internal support system for each other. If Barb has to be at Adam’s basketball game and Andrew has something, there is usually a wife that’s picking him up. They are helping each other out. That's what a family does. So, the inter-workings are much more deeper than what it seems and the relationships. That's what also makes this profession and being here very rewarding as well.
Keep it locked to InsideTennessee.com for more from the conversation with Butch Jones.