KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football Butch Jones is all about the rings, even if they are just the ones given out for winning bowl games.
Fifth-year senior Jason Croom, who has been with Tennessee through its climb back to relevance, explained the rings do make a difference for the players.
“Each ring tells you how your season went,” Croom said. “You look at that ring and it tells you how your season went.
“To have an opportunity to have an SEC ring, it would be a nice addition to the collection.”
The Vols (7-3, 3-3 SEC) can win the East Division this season for the first time since 2007 by closing their regular season with wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt AND if LSU defeats Florida on Saturday.
Some are of the mindset that awarding rings for anything less than an SEC East Division title lessens the importance of them, but not Jones.
“You look at what they’ve been able to do and accomplish,” Jones said. “So much of it is leaving with rings, and a couple of these guys have bowl championships.”
Of course, the most important bowl “championship” is determined through the College Football Playoff.
Jones, in his fourth season as Tennessee’s head coach, has made the Vols a contender for the ultimate prize.
But Tennessee’s third loss of the season — at South Carolina on Oct. 29 — all but eliminated the team from College Football Playoff consideration, even if the Vols were to shock the world and win the SEC title.
Tennessee was a fixture in the bowl scene for decades, making 16 straight appearances between 1989 and 2004.
Jones’ current bowl streak of three games is the longest since that span.
“We talk about the expectations in our football program,” Jones said, “and it should be where every senior class leaves here with three, four (or) five years’ worth of rings.”
TENNESSEE RECENT BOWL HISTORY
2015-16 Outback Bowl
Tennessee 45, Northwestern 6
2014-15 Taxslayer Bowl
Tennessee 45, Iowa 28
2013-14 NO BOWL
2012-13 NO BOWL
2011-12 NO BOWL
2010 Music City Bowl
North Carolina 30, Tennessee 27
2009 Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14
2008-09 NO BOWL
2007-08 Outback Bowl (SEC East Champs)
Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
2006-07 Outback Bowl
Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
2005-06 NO BOWL
2004-05 Cotton Bowl (SEC East Champs)
Tennessee 38, Texas A&M 7
2003-04 Peach Bowl (T-1st SEC East)
Clemson 27, Tennessee 14
2002 Peach Bowl
Maryland 30, Tennessee 3
2001-2002 Citrus Bowl (SEC East Champs)
Tennessee 45, Florida 17
2000-2001 Cotton Bowl
Kansas State 35, Tennessee 21
1999-2000 Fiesta Bowl
Nebraska 31, Tennessee 21
1998-1999 Fiesta Bowl (SEC, National Champs)
Tennessee 23, Florida State 16
1997-1998 Orange Bowl (SEC Champs)
Nebraska 42, Tennessee 17
1996-1997 Citrus Bowl
Tennessee 48, Northwestern 28
1995-1996 Citrus Bowl
Tennessee 20, Ohio State 14
1994 Gator Bowl
Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 23
1993-1994 Citrus Bowl (T-1st SEC East)
Penn State 31, Tennessee 13
1992-1993 Hall of Fame Bowl
Tennessee 38, Boston College 23
1991-1992 Fiesta Bowl
Penn State 42, Tennessee 17
1990-91 Sugar Bowl (SEC Champs)
Tennessee 23, Virginia 22
1989-90 Cotton Bowl (SEC Champs)
Tennessee 31, Arkansas 27