Lyle Allen “Butch” Jones, Jr. (born January 17, 1968) is the current head football coach of the University of Tennessee. He previously coached at Cincinnati from 2010 to 2012 and Central Michigan University (CMU) from 2007 to 2009. A Michigan native, he played college football at Ferris State University.
Assistant coaching career
As a college senior, Jones interned for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then earned a job as a defensive assistant at Rutgers University right out of college in 1990. Two years later, he took a job as offensive coordinator at Wilkes University, helping to guide the team deep into the Division III playoffs. In 1995, he returned to his alma mater, Ferris State, to serve in the offensive coordinator role. His offensive acumen was clear as he led Ferris State to the top-ranked offense nationally for three straight years. He arrived at CMU in 1998, coaching tight ends for one year, running backs for two more, and finally called the plays on offense from 2002 to 2004. He left the school in 2005 to work for Rich Rodriguez and coach wide receivers at West Virginia University, helping to lead the school to back-to-back top 10 seasons.
Jones returned to Central Michigan as head coach in 2007. In his first year he posted an 8–5 overall record and a 7–1 conference record. Jones ended two streaks that had haunted his predecessors. On September 29, 2007, CMU beat Northern Illinois University, which was the first CMU victory over Northern Illinois going back to 1998. On November 6, 2007, CMU beat its chief rival, Western Michigan University, at its home field of Waldo Stadium for the first time since 1993. He guided CMU to the MACtitle at Ford Field in Detroit against Miami (Ohio), and led the team to its second consecutive Motor City Bowl. He was only the ninth football coach in Mid-American Conference history to win the championship in his first season. In 2008, a 31–24 loss to Ball State on Nov. 19 derailed the Chippewas’ MAC title hopes, but CMU earned a trip to a third consecutive Motor City Bowl. In 2009 he guided the Chippewas to their third MAC Championship in four years after an 8–0 MAC schedule, the first time in school history the Chippewas went undefeated in the MAC. CMU completed its run with a 20–10 win against Ohio in the MAC title game at Ford Field. He left CMU with a 27–13 overall record and 20–3 MAC record. He did not win a bowl game, though his team won the 2009 bowl game against Troy, 44–41.
On December 16, 2009, Jones was named head coach at the University of Cincinnati. He replaced Brian Kelly, who left to become head coach at Notre Dame. Jones had previously replaced Kelly at Central Michigan.
Jones led the Bearcats to records of 4–8 in 2010 and 10–3 in 2011, including a Big East championship, a Liberty Bowl victory (31–24 over Vanderbilt), and he was named Big East Coach of the Year. Also in 2011, Cincinnati was the only program to win both its conference championship as well as the league’s team academic award.
He led the Bearcats to a 9–3 regular season record in 2012, leading them to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte to play against Duke University. Twenty days prior to the bowl game, on December 7, 2012, Jones announced to the team that he would be resigning to accept the job as head coach at the University of Tennessee, after declining offers from Colorado, Purdue, and others. He is required to pay $1.4 million to buy out his Cincinnati contract extension, signed on January 23, 2012, that went through the 2017 season.
He made his coaching debut on August 31, 2013 in Neyland Stadium against the Austin Peay Governors, resulting in a 45–0 Tennessee victory. Tennessee earned its 800th victory in program history and became only the eighth school in the nation to reach that plateau after Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
On October 19, 2013 in Neyland Stadium, Jones led the Vols to a win over the eleventh-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. This was widely considered Jones’ first signature win. Jones’ second signature win came on November 1, 2014 at Williams-Bryce Stadium against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Vols trailed 42–28 with 5 minutes remaining and came back to win 45–42 in overtime.
With the youngest roster in the FBS in 2014, Jones and the Vols finished the season with a record of 6–6 with bowl eligibility – the best regular season record and the first bowl game appearance the team has had since 2010.
On January 2nd, 2015, Jones led Tennessee to their first bowl win since 2007, in the Taxslayer Bowl.
Head coaching record
Jones and his wife, Barbara, have three sons—Alex, Adam, and Andrew.
Jones is a friend of the Miami Heat‘s head basketball coach Erik Spoelstra. On August 14, 2013, ESPN reported that Spoelstra made a special trip to Knoxville to visit and speak to the Tennessee football team.