DESTIN, Fla. — With a lawsuit hanging over his Tennessee program’s head, Butch Jones arrived at the SEC meetings on Tuesday less than a week after Baylor fired football coach Art Briles amid a sexual assault lawsuit.
He was asked how the situations are different.
“I’m not into comparisons. All I can speak on is the University of Tennessee,” Jones said. “I feel strongly as everyone in our organization that we’ve done the right things. I’m proud of the culture that we have built. And we’ve tried to do everything the right way in our organization. So I feel very strongly with what we have at the University of Tennessee, what we’ve built, and what we will continue to grow on and build as well.”
Eight plaintiffs are listed in the Title IX lawsuit levied against Tennessee. A court filing alleged that Jones told then-sophomore Drae Bowles he “betrayed the team” and called him a “traitor to the team” after he reportedly helped a woman who said she was raped by two other football players. Jones called that claim “absolutely false” in a statement.
Jones didn’t directly address the lawsuit, but he was asked several general questions about player behavior and a coach’s responsibility.
Jones pointed out that his father was a chief of police for 37 years, an uncle was a law enforcement officer and that he has a “great deal” of friends within the FBI.
He was also asked about background checks on players they’re recruiting.
“Everything is about giving a young man an opportunity. Every circumstance, every situation is different. We’re all parents. But we try to do our background checks. We try to be as thorough as possible through our social media to Google. But there’s also some things that hamper you in terms of your background (checks), in being minors and the age that goes with that. So there’s a lot of things that we’re not able to do. …
“Make no mistake about it: The first thing in our recruiting profile is character. We try to research that to the best of our ability.”