Tennessee settled its Title IX lawsuit this summer, and while the university is happy to move forward, Butch Jones believes this incident may have strengthened his team and the athletic program.
“It’s made us better,” the Tennessee football coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think it’s made us stronger. You always learn from these particular situations. But also, we had an environment and a culture in place and we relied on our training. We do a year-round personal growth and development program. We’re one of very few schools in the country that do it year-round. We call it Fourth-and-1 because life is Fourth-and-1 with choices and decisions you make. We also did some different things, I thought, that was very, very helpful this summer in terms of small-group settings. But you have to always constantly educate your players because in college football, as you guys know, a third of your roster turns over every single year and you can’t assume anything. But again, I think we’ve turned it into an educational process. We talk about it each and every day in our football program. There’s more to life than just football, and we try to prepare our players for their biggest game – and that’s the game of life.”
Jones, 48, arrived at Tennessee in 2013. He went 5-7 in his first year, 7-6 in his second year and 9-4 last year. This year, the Vols are expected to compete for an SEC championship.
Jones said the Title IX experience taught him a great deal.
“Resiliency,” he said. “Perseverance. You’re the leader. Sometimes things are out there and you got to put your head down and you got to keep driving and driving and driving. I learned that sometimes people want to attack your integrity when they don’t know who you are or what you stand for. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the world that we live in. That’s all part of this job as well. I think perseverance and believing in what you do (is important), but also the leadership. I have great, great people around me. We have a great coaching staff. We have a great football family here. We have administration that’s done a tremendous job. I think Tennessee, from an athletic department standpoint, is one of the best untold stories in all of sport. We’ve had over 75 coaches come in here this offseason wanting to know what the heck have you done in three years to get this program turned around from where it was to where it is now. It’s been remarkable process.”
Indeed, the program was not exactly in pristine condition when Jones arrived.
“We were one of a few teams in all of college football facing the APR academic penalty when we came in and took the job,” he said. “We needed a perfect score of 1,000 on our APR and we were able to do that. Our academics, we all work hand-in-hand. I think it’s one of the great success stories in all of college football and all of athletics how far this football program and athletic department has come in such a short period of time.”