KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones was pondering whether to leave Cincinnati this week to coach Colorado when he received a text message that inadvertently foreshadowed his destination.
It was from Denver Broncos quarterback and former Tennessee great Peyton Manning.
"He was selling me on Colorado," Jones said. "He said it was hard for a person from the University of Tennessee to be selling somebody to come to the University of Colorado. I wanted to text him back, 'Come on, I want to go to Tennessee.' "
That's where Jones ended up.
Tennessee introduced Jones on Friday to succeed Derek Dooley, fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Jones called Tennessee his dream job and said he was taking over "the best college football program in America."
It hardly mattered to Jones that he wasn't Tennessee's first choice. "I think I was my wife's third choice, and it's worked for 20 years," Jones said.
Jones, 44, is 50-27 in six seasons as a head coach. He went 27-13 in three seasons at Central Michigan and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the past three years. He faces the task of rebuilding a former SEC power that has three consecutive losing seasons.
Jones agreed to a six-year contract worth $18.2 million, ending a tumultuous couple of days for himself and his new school. Colorado had offered him a five-year deal worth at least $13.5 million.
Tennessee went after at least two other candidates before hiring Jones.
During the 19-day search, the Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said turned down their offer to stay at Louisville.
"Rarely in life is anything exactly what it seems to be," said UT athletic director Dave Hart, a former AD at Florida State. "Life doesn't throw us all fastballs. It throws us curves, and then you've got some screwballs. … You've got to be able to adjust."
On the day Strong made his announcement, Jones rejected Colorado's offer. He also was linked to the Purdue job before withdrawing.
AUBURN: New coach Gus Malzahn hired his protege, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, and defensive boss Ellis Johnson. Lashlee, 29, will make $350,000 a year, and Johnson, 60, received an $800,000 salary. No other terms were released.
OHIO STATE: Thousands gathered to honor the No. 3 Buckeyes for their perfect season. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman unveiled a sign that read "12-0 Row" to be put at an undetermined street in the city. OSU is ineligible to play in a bowl but got the Big Ten Leaders Division trophy.
I-AA PLAYOFFS: Brian Bell threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns as visiting Sam Houston State defeated Montana State 34-16 in the quarterfinals.
Tradition, trophy on line in Army-Navy meeting
PHILADELPHIA — Army's Jarrett Mackey hears the same order each day at West Point: Beat Navy and bring home the coveted Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.
"Every single time I pass them, it's, 'Army-Navy. CIC. Let's go,' " Mackey said. "I wouldn't say it puts more pressure on us, but it's time. … It's been way too long."
Try 11 years. Navy has beaten Army 10 straight, the longest winning streak by either team in a series dating to 1890.
The winner today at Lincoln Financial Field also leaves with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy as top service academy. Army and Navy each defeated Air Force. Army (2-9) hasn't hoisted the trophy since 1996. Navy (7-4) won it a school-record seven straight seasons through 2009 before giving way to Air Force the past two.
"The 10 wins have been awesome," Navy linebacker Brye French said. "But this year is even bigger than all those because it actually means something with the CIC (trophy)."