KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee fired coach Butch Jones on Sunday with two games left in a regular season in which the Volunteers started ranked but are now still winless in the Southeastern Conference.
Vols athletic director John Currie said defensive line coach Brady Hoke would serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
“Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be competitively,” Currie said in a statement. “For that reason, I have asked Coach Jones to step down as head football coach. I know Coach Jones will be successful moving forward, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Jones went 34-27 overall and 14-24 in the SEC over five seasons. He led the Vols to bowl victories each of the last three years before the program took a giant step backward this fall.
Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC) has dropped five of their last six games, including a 50-17 loss to Missouri on Saturday.
A dismal offense and a porous run defense sealed Jones’ fate. Tennessee’s offense went 15 straight quarters without a touchdown at one point this season. The Vols ended a string of 23 straight quarters without a touchdown pass Saturday but gave up 433 yards rushing and rank among the nation’s worst teams in run defense.
The Vols won their last six games in 2015 and their first five games in 2016, an 11-game streak that resulted in a top-10 ranking. But they’ve gone 8-10 since, and they’ve lost 10 of their last 12 conference matchups.
Jones was making $4.1 million annually and has a contract that runs through Feb. 28, 2021. His buyout states that if he’s fired without cause, Tennessee would owe him over $8 million. That figure could be mitigated if he does land another position.