LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones was put on the defensive Saturday night, peppered with questions about his job security after a last-minute, 29-26 loss to Kentucky.
“I coach for my job every single day, that hasn’t changed since the minute I walked in here Year 1, that’s always a mindset that I’ve had,” Jones said, asked about the perception that his job security is day-to-day.
“I believe in our kids, I believe in our program, and I believe in what we’re recruiting, and it’s one of those years,” Jones said at his press conference at Kroger Field. “Never been through this in 30-plus years, with how many games have gone down to the wire.”
The Vols (3-5, 0-5 SEC) have lost to the Wildcats only twice in the last 33 years counting the setback Saturday night.
Senior linebacker Colton Jumper said there was “heartache” in the locker room after the loss to Kentucky (6-2, 3-2). Senior defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said “guys in the locker room are frustrated.”
Jones, in his fifth season as head coach, took responsibility for the gut-wrenching defeat.
It’s the fourth game this season decided on the final play of the final possession. The Vols have lost the last three such games: Florida ( 26-20), South Carolina (15-9) and Kentucky (29-26) after beating Georgia Tech 42-41 in double overtime in the season opener.
“We talk about details, accountability and toughness, it starts with me,” Jones said. “It starts with our coaching staff and it’s everyone in our organization, but it all falls on my shoulders.
“There’s nobody that takes more ownership in this football program than Butch Jones, I can assure you of that.”
Jones said he “absolutely” believes first-year athletic director John Currie will continue to support him through the remainder of the regular season. When pressed, Jones explained why he feels that way.
“Is that a (Tennessee) team that had quit? No, it wasn’t a team that had given up,” Jones said. “That team hung together, and that team battled. I think it’s a testament to them.
“There’s a lot of pride in that room and on this staff of getting back to a bowl game, (and) that’s what we want for our fans and our football program,” he said. “You just have to keep grinding. There’s still a lot of football left to be played.”
Tennessee athletic director John Currie was not made available for interviews following the game.
Jones’ buyout is approximately $8.3 million should the Vols decide to fire him now and go with an interim head coach the remainder of the season.
Tennessee has five coaches on Jones’ staff who have been been head coached in a full-time or interim basis.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones after 29-26 loss at Kentucky
Posted by Tennessee Volunteers Insiders on Saturday, October 28, 2017