JOE BIDDLE: Vols fire Butch Jones

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – What has been the worst kept secret for weeks has come to fruition.

According to several reliable sources, Tennessee football coach Butch Jones has been officially notified that he has coached his final game for the Vols.

It was first reported by college football writer Bruce Feldman. 247Sports in Knoxville, Knoxville radio sports talk host Jimmy Hyams, WKRN-Channel 2 news anchor Bob Mueller and others confirmed.

The bricks came tumbling down.

The school has announced a news conference with Athletic Director John Currie at 4 p.m. CST Sunday.

The Vols are 4-6 overall and 0-6 in SEC play after an embarrassing 50-17 loss to Missouri Saturday.

In his fifth season at Tennessee, Jones finishes with a 14-24 record against SEC opponents and 34-27 overall.

The Vols lost to Kentucky two weeks ago on the road and it was apparent Athletics Director John Currie could not allow it to go on any more.

When Missouri piled up 50 points on the Vols, Currie had no option even though I believe Currie had known even beforehand it had to happen, barring a miraculous finish Jones had to go.

I’ve written before that Jones had a lot of good qualities for the job. He was a solid recruiter and his players seemed to play hard for him even in the bleakest of times.

However, a number of players that had been signed under Jones as three, four and five-star recruits have failed to noticeably progress over the years. Jones’ lack of player development is also a heavy factor of his departure.

Now the pressure is turned on Currie, in his first year as Tennessee’s Athletics Director, he has to find Jones’ replacement.

Currie cannot afford to miss on his first hire for the football program, one that was once proud, but had dropped to some of the lowest levels in Tennessee’s football history.

By firing Jones with remaining games against LSU and Vanderbilt, Currie has a head start on teams that are keeping their current coaches until the season ends.

Currie can do his homework, go through agents and other networking outlets to see how much interest coaches are in coming to Tennessee.

Once a top 20 national coaching job, it is no longer the case.

There will be other SEC coaching vacancies to follow this season. The spotlight was on Jones since his team unraveled, leading to lower home game attendance, fan apathy, verbal commitments from recruits changing their minds and testing the waters.

When they hired Jones, Tennessee was turned down a number of times from other coaches.

Currie needs to pay what it takes to get the right coach for the job. Alabama went through a number of coaches before they found Nick Saban. Sure they made Saban the highest paid coach in college football. He earned it and has been worth every dollar.

Currie needs to aim high. And hit the target.

Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at joebiddle11@gmail.com.