Tennessee governor on the Vols: 'They have to fill that stadium up'
The next time you find yourself asking if college football coaches are worth the eight-figure contracts, the comp cars and the country club memberships, remember the situation Butch Jones walked into at Tennessee.
Jones was hired by Tennessee on Dec. 7, and in inside of his 60th day on the job, Sports Business Journal published a report stating that the Volunteers' athletic department was more than $200 million in debt.
“We’ve got to get football healthy,” Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart told SBJ. “That’s our economic engine. When that program is successful, everybody wins.”
Then, on Thursday, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam issued the following statement:
"They can't be average, and you hate to say it that way, but financially it just doesn't work. They have to fill that stadium up. They get the benefit of being a part of the SEC and all the TV money that comes with that, but at the end of the day, if they can't fill that stadium up and sell concessions, then not just the football program but all the other sports that benefit from a strong football program suffer."
"If you want to be bottom line about it, it shows why UT-Knoxville has to be good in football. You have a whole program that's set up with a 100,000-seat Neyland Stadium, and it's a program that supports all the other sports other than basketball and provides scholarships back to the university."
On top of that, Jones inherits a program that hasn't appeared in the SEC Championship since 2007 (when the current recruiting class was in 7th grade), is just 12-28 in SEC play over the past five years and six games below .500 overall during that time frame, while the rest of the conference has snatched up seven consecutive national titles.
If Jones was ever going to have a honeymoon period in Knoxville, news of this week has guranteed that the trip was cancelled and the car was turned around on the way to the airport.