Being a head coach at a place like Tennessee requires far more than schematics and in-home visits on the recruiting trail.
They must be leaders, spokesmen, visionaries and much more.
After the $50 million addition to engineering premium football players with the Anderson Training Center, what's the next tool Tennessee coaches will have and what part does the head coach have in its conception?
The Big Orange have issued upwards of 275 scholarship offers to Class of 2017 prospects. What does that mean?
See what fourth-year head man Butch Jones said in response to these questions during a sit-down on Rocky Top with InsideTennessee below:
InsideTennessee: You've got the Anderson Training Center, this beautiful facility, you've got the dorms going up — I'm not sure when they'll be ready, I think 2017 maybe — what's next? What's the next tool you think that you’ll have with which to work. Obviously you'll get the third practice field soon enough.
Butch Jones: You always have to be constantly be evaluating where you're at and it gets back to that program philosophy of the pursuit of excellence, always continue to grow and elevate your football program and constant never-ending improvement. As we all know, in this conference, everything is contested. This is a conference where the margin of victory is very, very small. We know that this is a conference where everybody invests great resources just like we have, but you can never become satisfied. You do have to continue to grow and it’s, ‘What can we continue to do to make our players better? Is there any competitive advantage that we can give them, whether it’s their personal growth and development, if it’s fighting mental fatigue? Is there something to provide them to further their growth and development?’ That's what I'm looking into.
Also, the recruiting phase of it is big, too. That's why it's exciting to see, you know, plans to continue to enhance Neyland Stadium. That's very, very needed in our football program. Again, that shows people that, ‘Hey, we are not satisfied. We are always going to continue to grow and elevate our football program.’
So I have some ideas moving forward that we need to continue to grow and improve here, but like I said, we have done a great job, our administration has done a great job of really continuing to elevate our facilities and grow them. The expansion of the practice fields, that can't happen soon enough. That really limits us. We are a year away from those but those are desperately needed. Obviously when we get the dormitory completed.
It’s trying to look 10 years ahead. When you have projects, you want to have a vision of 10 years from now, if we build this or we put this in, how do we make it so it is not obsolete in a couple years? I think that is a form of leadership, trying to create that vision of always constantly moving forward.
IT: I know that the study is being done. I've heard from different season-ticket holders that I guess that firm has reached out to people, ‘Hey would you be interested in this? Would you pay this, to see this as far as the stadium goes?’ People keep asking me about the field. Different people have told me that you guys may resod during the season like some NFL franchises do. I know it's probably a 5-6 figure deal to do it. Is that the gameplan now because you have a bye weekend in there and you are on the road. Right after you finish one of those home games during the season, do you just resod during the season? Is that how you figure it out?
Jones: No, that hasn’t come to my knowledge at all, but I will tell you this, we worked very diligently, very hard on having the best playing surface competitively, not only in Neyland Stadium but the Anderson Training Center and the Haslam Fields. There's been great discussion, there’s been great dialogue and great resources here of individuals working together. I have the utmost confidence in the world that our field of play, our surface will be very, very good. It will be one of the best playing surfaces in the country. I thought this spring our fields were outstanding. So I think that moving forward you are going to see a great difference in that area.
IT: What’s the craziest story you have from — not just being a head coach but whenever — being gone the recruiting trail? An in-home visit? A time when you missed a flight and had to rent a car or get on a bus? Looking back, it’s like, ‘I can’t believe I went through all of that just to sit down with that kid.’
Jones: Every year you have a number of different stories and it's like having a book and it continues to grow. That's the great thing about our job is no two days are ever the same. When you're out recruiting, no two days are ever the same. I can chuckle sitting here and thinking about even this year some of the recruiting visits where we fly into an FBO and I think one, they only had a rental car and they gave it to us, which was a 1980 Dodge Caravan with about 175,000 miles on it. We had to drive 50 miles to go see the prospective student-athlete.
IT: This year?
Jones: Yes, and I couldn’t even get into the passenger side door so. I had to go through the driver’s side. Those are the things where you just sit there and kind of laugh. Those are stories that you tell all the time. But that's the great thing about this profession is when you are dealing with people, you’re investing in people. People are your greatest resource. Again, no day is ever the same. There's never two days that are exactly the same.
IT: What’s an offer now? People ask me all the time, ‘How are they offering 2-300 kids a year? I know you have to do it. I know you have to do it early in the process with a lot of expectations for a kid to develop if his shoes are this big, if his dad is that tall. I know sometimes offers have a timeframe on them, ‘If you commit now we’ll take it, but if we take these two linebackers, they took your spot. What do I tell people what a scholarship offer is now to an SEC program?
Jones: Well, if you get a scholarship offer from the University of Tennessee, that means something. To me, that's the highest form of working hard and knowing that your efforts are respected and they want you in their football family. I think the whole world of recruiting is a challenge in and of itself just because every year everything is accelerated from younger players now coming onto campus to the number of scholarship offers. A lot of it is based on your yearly needs. Some years you are going to offer more players at a particular position than you will others. I think that's based on needs. Also, the big thing for us is getting the prospective student-athlete to campus. We can get them to campus and they can see all of the people and feel all of the positive energy and the excitement, see our facilities, be around our professors, be around the Thornton Center staff, be around our administration. They can sense that there's great people here at Tennessee and a great vision and great excitement and also great expectations. So for us it's getting a young man on campus, but I would say just because of the accelerated recruiting calendar, that's a challenge in and of itself. But, when we offer a young man, we don't just throw offers out there, they mean something.