NASHVILLE – University of Tennessee head football coach “Butch” Jones was named the 2013 Tennessee Headliner of the Year in an inaugural award by the Tennessee Press Association presented Thursday in Nashville.
The Tennessee Headliner of the Year Award recognizes a person (or group) who has brought the most positive headlines to Tennessee during the year.
Publishers and editors from across the state nominated those who they believed had contributed the most toward positive headlines. The finalist was chosen by the board of directors of the TPA, the newspaper trade association representing 122 newspapers in Tennessee.
Lyle Allen "Butch" Jones received the award at a ceremony at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville in conjunction with the TPA Winter Convention. Jones begins his second year in charge of the Tennessee Vols football team in 2014, looking to continue a rebuilding project that, in his own words, must be done “brick by brick.”
Jones came to Knoxville after a highly successful run at Cincinnati, where he claimed back-to-back conference championships in his final two seasons with the Bearcats.
In separate three-year stints at Cincinnati and before that at Central Michigan, Jones won multiple conference titles, and in 2011, his Bearcats were the only team in college football to win its conference title game and the conference's academic award.
Jones was embraced by the UT Nation, delivering a direct and inspiring message even from his introductory news conference, and his enthusiastic and impassioned message has helped deliver hope to an army of orange-clad followers who have endured the recent struggles of their beloved Vols and some high times for some of their most loathed rivals.
Since being hired in December 2012, Jones has managed to put his prints all over the program.
There was a near-record crowd at the annual Orange-and-White spring game, a showing that spoke to the belief Jones was selling and the hope the fans had conjured, considering more than 60,000 were in attendance at Neyland Stadium mere months after the end of another disappointing season.
While Jones' 5-7 season in his first campaign did not end UT's postseason drought, it certainly was not without its highlights.
Jones delivered Tennessee's first win over a ranked opponent since 2009 when the Vols beat South Carolina 23-21 on a last-second field goal in front of a packed Neyland Stadium crowd.
Jones and his program were singular plays away from victory against SEC-East rivals Georgia and Vanderbilt in games that could have greatly changed the perspective of his debut season.
While that perspective may need orange-tinted glasses for some of his critics, regardless of the final record, Jones and Co. made believers out of some of the best high school players in state, region and the nation in his vision and belief. Jones and his staff of assistants landed a nationally lauded recruiting class that recalls the glory days of Tennessee football.