Butch Jones has been on the hot seat, and at this point it has already started boiling. The Tennessee Volunteers remained winless in the SEC after losing to Kentucky this weekend, and something that happened in that game may provide the final reason to get rid of Jones.
As reported on Outkick The Coverage, the Tennessee Athletic Department is investigating the handling of a concussion sustained by offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. Kendrick reportedly got the concussion late in the first half, but continued to play until late in the fourth quarter, and does not remember the second half.
At halftime other linemen recognized that Kendrick was woozy, but Kendrick didn’t want to let his team down and didn’t approach trainers to notify them of his injury. That was because offensive line coach Walt Wells, who multiple sources believe had to know Kendrick was concussed, repeatedly exhorted Kendrick, “We need you to go!” and pointed out that Kendrick’s back up had not made the trip to Lexington.
There are, at this time, no direct allegations that Butch Jones directed a player to get back in a game knowing he might have a concussion. The family did go to the athletic department after the game, expressing concern over how it was handled. Butch Jones denied having any knowledge of a concussion.
Obviously, this is a serious concern, having a player not properly treated and evaluated during a game.
But, cynically, I’ll also point out that if Tennessee is using an incident like this to try to push a “for cause” firing or to use as leverage for a negotiated buyout, it’s kind of full of crap.
This is the same program that did not fire Butch Jones for cause a couple of years ago, when there were some very serious allegations made against him directly.
In February of 2016, a lawsuit was filed that alleged that former player Trae Bowles was assaulted by teammates after helping a rape victim, and that Butch Jones had referred to Bowles as a traitor for acting on behalf of a friend when the alleged perpetrators were football players.
Jones, of course, denied those allegations. But phone records showed several calls to Bowles, and also showed that Jones had a line with the local police where he was informed of the incident before the police actually interviewed the suspects, contrary to what Jones claimed publicly right after the incident.
Before the next football season started, Tennessee settled the Title IX lawsuit for 2.48 million dollars, avoiding Jones having to submit to a deposition over the claims of his behavior.
But those were different times. Tennessee was coming off a 45-6 thrashing of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, and was entering the season as the #9 team in the nation, with expectations that the program was about to take the leap.
That didn’t happen, and now things are going in the wrong direction. Butch Jones absolutely wouldn’t have survived if the Trae Bowles allegations came to light in 2017 (and the school had to pay out a large settlement amount), so forgive me if I see no good guys as the school explores this latest episode.