The fact that Tennessee’s win against South Carolina on Saturday is the cause for such a renewed optimism in Knoxville, pretty much tells you all you need to know about where the Vols’ football program has plummeted to in recent years.
Tennessee fans have been waiting for four years for a reason to celebrate a big win.
Saturday’s win over #11 South Carolina certainly qualified as a big win, but what exactly did it mean for the Vols?
Most importantly it shows that the hype surrounding Butch Jones is justified.
Jones has done everything right so far during his tenure with the Vols. He walked into a pretty tough situation, a situation that several coaches looked at and decided wasn’t worth the undertaking.
The lack of talent, combined with the historically tough schedule, would be enough for most new head coaches to take a pass on year one while making constant excuses week after week.
But that’s not how Butch Jones operates.
Jones expected to win at Oregon, he expected to win at Florida and he definitely expected to win against Georgia.
When they lost those three games, he didn’t make excuses. He said that his team needed to get better in certain areas and that’s exactly what they did — they got better.
You can readily see the improvements the Vols have made each week. There’s no doubt about the strides this team has taken.
But just improving isn’t enough. There have been no moral victories for the Vols this season. A loss is a loss and nothing more.
At some point the Vols had to prove they could beat a ranked team. They had to prove they were relevant in the SEC East. That’s what Saturday’s win against South Carolina did — it brought a sense of relevancy to Rocky Top.
Taylor Zarzour, a rabid Alabama fan and host of WFNZ’s “The Drive” in Charlotte, NC, said it best on Monday when he offered the following observation.
Zarzour: College football is better when Tennessee is relevant.
He’s absolutely right.
When Tennessee is relevant it’s better for all college football fans.
If you’re an Auburn or Ole Miss fan you want to see Tennessee be a threat to Alabama. You want to see them compete against Florida and Georgia. It’s better for everyone.
Tennessee is one of the most tradition rich football programs in the nation.
To see that tradition become a non-factor with three straight losing seasons isn’t good for college football. Just like Michigan, Penn State and Notre Dame being down is never good for college football.
When Michael Palardy’s game-winning 19 yard field goal sailed through the uprights in front of 95,736 of the greatest fans in the SEC, it showed the nation that Tennessee football is back and here to stay.
However, as Butch Jones acknowledged on Monday, the Vols are far from a finished product.
Jones: As we continue to move forward we must take tremendous strides this week in practice. We must really improve as a football team. That has to be the point of emphasis in everything.
Tennessee has a long way to go, but the win over South Carolina should offer a beacon of light to Vol fans.
For four years the Volunteer faithful have suffered through broken promises, losing seasons, embarrassing off-the-field issues and various other ailments.
Butch Jones has talked a lot about “the process”, but you’ve been able to see results immediately.
That’s why when Jones says that he and his staff are building a championshiop program, well you better start taking him serious.
For more on the Vols, make sure to follow us on Twitter @AllforTennessee