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Butch Jones using Twitter, Vol Nation to rise to the top
- Updated: April 1, 2013
Tennessee’s fall from grace was not an overnight occurrence. The erosion began in the mid-2000s and continued crumbling away well before the program reached rock bottom on that dreadful night:
November 17th, 2012. A day that will live in infamy.
Vanderbilt 41, Tennessee 18. And it wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated. If not for a Cordarrelle Patterson 81-yard punt return, the margin would have been over 30. It was a display of pure second-half domination as one team played with the enthusiasm of a program on the rise, while the other with the finality of a lame-duck coach on his last crutch.
The following weeks were nothing short of gut-wrenching.
Double D’s reign of terror came to an end, Gruden was chased, and a Louisville coach decided he was better off staying in Louisville. The three-week whirlwind put both the hunger and depths of delusion that Tennessee fans had resorted to on full display for the entire nation to witness. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt was one of the many national talking-heads to twist the knife.
Tennessee Vol fans are behaving like the 5 year old @ the mall in full melt down mode. I’d ask where the parents are…but it’s adults
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) December 7, 2012
Butch Jones leaves Cincinnati for Tennessee
Butch Jones accepted the job at Tennessee in early December to less than unbridled enthusiasm. His initial press conference was about what one would expect: a perfect, cliché-laced exhibition of coach-speak.
Most of the fan-base bought in, while a portion realized that “winning” the debut press-conference is as worthless as the local retailers’ stock of those silly orange pants that Double D wore*.
(*Disclaimer: I loved the pants. Everyone loved the pants. But under no circumstances should you wear orange pants to Tennessee functions anymore. They are cursed.)
The general consensus was that any coach would be an upgrade, and that any adult who has ever played a serious game of Madden could realistically do a comparable job to Double D.
(Lump me into that category for three reasons: 1) I love Madden, 2) I can count not only to 11, but also past it… say to 13?!?!, and 3) I would have been smart enough to know that I could not hire an unproven defensive coordinator that wanted to switch to a 3-4 defense despite not having the correct personnel in a season that was do-or-die for my job security and coaching reputation. But hey that’s just me. Also, I did win the Super Bowl on the All-Madden level, which is really, really hard to do.)
Coach Jones has said all the right things since taking the job. He opened the doors to former players and created a family atmosphere.
Yet, things were still rocky in the beginning. Tee Martin refused to “come home,” which would have meant moving his family from LA to a place that saw snow in late March. Jay Graham jetted for Florida State. And Vonn Bell spurned the hometown team to link up with Urban Meyer, leaving a sour aftertaste to a recruiting class that came in at No. 20.
All that said, there’s one thing that Butch Jones has absolutely nailed, and it may be the key to reversing the near-decade-long downturn that the program has been on. It is something simple, yet potentially revolutionary: TWITTER.
Jones is active on Twitter, and he has apparently let his staff know that they better be as well. A movement has begun through hashtags such as #RiseToTheTop, #Team117, #VFL, #FullButch and probably about five others that I am not hip to.
(If you are not Twitter savvy, a hashtag is a way to group your messages. For instance, if I included #Vols in a tweet of mine, you could use that to search for other people that were talking about the Vols as well)
The movement has worked the fans into a full-blown frenzy. Simple things like sending a few tweets a day, responding to a fan, or even granting a fan’s birthday wish with a quick and public “Happy Birthday!” shout out has sky-rocketed Jones’ approval rating before ever even running through the Power T.
Those things are important for fan support, but it could also prove to be Tennessee’s jump-start back into college football relevancy.
Vol Fans, Butch Jones using Twitter to land top recruits
The 2014 recruiting class is off to the best start of any class in the last ten years at Tennessee, and it has been fueled by Twitter. Vic Wharton and Todd Kelly Jr. have combined with a couple of current players like Byron Moore to lead the charge. Now that Jalen Hurd is on board, it has been taken to a new level.
The players have been able to communicate with talented players from all across the country about coming to play for Tennessee. It’s an everyday occurrence. No, really. They have even created an account, @UTLegendClass, specifically to instruct fans on what players to target with their support.
Most importantly, it has provided the fans with an opportunity to impact the program’s future success. It may sound a bit ridiculous, but it’s undeniably true.
In case you were unaware, these big-time high school recruits like attention. Fanatics believe that every player could be the one that brings their favorite team back to a championship level. It’s a perfect match.
The process leading up to national signing day is a little too Toddlers & Tiaras-ish for me, but the majority of fans eat it up. We have all seen the nationally televised press conferences broadcasted live from the player’s high school in which they dramatically select which school they will attend to play football.
Now, thanks to Twitter, this has become a year-long process.
In the digital world, Twitter followers are viewed as currency; a representation of worth if you will. I’m not saying it’s right, nor am I saying that it’s wrong. I am just telling you how it is.
Big-time recruits beg for the attention from fan bases, and feedback has revealed that most are blown away by the mob mentality of Volunteer fans. But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to 5-star quarterback prospect David Cornwell:
— DC5 (@DavidCornwell5) March 23, 2013
Granted, Jones is not relying solely on social media to help him rebuild the Tennessee brand. It has became a popular story that Coach Jones and his staff recently stuffed the mailbox of Georgia standout Stanton Truitt with over 100 personal letters. That in itself is nothing new, but Truitt himself brought a new element into the picture when he sent out the proof on Twitter while rocking his orange gear. And he wasn’t the only one.
Saturday, 4-star Defensive End Andrew Williams from Georgia tweeted out his picture of his collection of personal letters from Tennessee:
— Andrew Williams (@DrewWill_79) March 30, 2013
The vibe around the program has changed dramatically, and the Rise to the Top movement is in full force heading into the Orange and White game April 20th.
The social media effect has helped lead the revitalization. And for that, UT’s new head football coach deserves some serious props. Because Butch Jones using Twitter effectively is tantamount to all of this/
With that being said…
Momentum must be sustained on the field this upcoming fall. Progress must be shown on the field. Big-time recruits know that the most effective way to gain long-term attention is to win football games.
The Tennessee fan-base is starved and borderline desperate to return to national relevancy. The best-tweeting football staff in the SEC will have to prove that it can actually coach in the SEC. I believe it can, but if it cannot…
It will not take long before #FullButch supporters get accused of just being frat-like #ButchChuggers.