If there’s any Tennessee player who can understand the business side of college football, it’s defensive end Kyle Phillips.
His mother, Teresa, has been the athletic director at Tennessee State in Nashville for more than 15 years, during which the Tigers have had three different football coaches and five different men’s basketball coaches.
Seeing his mother have to make decisions and fire coaches didn’t make it any easier for Phillips to swallow what happened on Sunday, when the Vols fired head coach Butch Jones with two games remaining in the season.
“My mom being an A.D., I’ve definitely seen the goods and bads of sports, having to hire and fire people,” Phillips said Tuesday. “I’m used to it. I definitely can handle it. It’s definitely disappointing. It’s definitely sad, because great coaches get fired.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way sometimes, but it’s definitely hard.”
Phillips was a five-star defensive end prospect Jones pulled out of Nashville despite heavy interest from Ole Miss and LSU in 2015, and despite battling through injuries during his first two seasons, he’s started a handful of games this season and always represented Tennessee’s program with class.
He didn’t come to Tennessee to be part of a team that got the coach fired or endure seasons like this one with the Vols 4-6 overall and 0-6 in SEC play heading into the final two games at home against LSU and Vanderbilt.
“For sure, it’s very disappointing, especially losing some tough games and things not going our way, but I mean, sometimes just it is what it is, Phillips said. “We work hard, we come every day preparing to win. It just sucks that things haven’t been going our way so far.”
Phillips said he knew before the Vols held their final team meeting with Jones what was happening because it was “all over social media,” and he admitted the players had an idea what might happen ultimately with Jones “because it’s been all over everywhere.”
He believes this season shouldn’t diminish what Jones accomplished at Tennessee.
“I think he’s done a great job,” Phillips said. “Before I came here, I’m from Tennessee and I didn’t know much about Tennessee football until he became the head coach. I just knew it was in bad shape before he got here, and I think he did a great…