Webster defines accountability as "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions."
Over the course of the last year-plus under head coach Butch Jones, the catch phrases and often times rhetoric have rolled off his tongue at an almost frantic pace. It's why I've jokingly told him he's a cross between a tent evangelist and a medicine man.
Jones is always selling. He's always preaching. He does it for recruiting. He does it to motivate and to try and win.
But it's also about accountability. And that is what the first 18 months of the Butch Jones era should be most remembered for and identified with the standards set forth and established.
"Everything is about creating a culture, a mindset," Jones told Volquest.com. "I call it the mindset of a champion. The total environment. The standard and the expectations. There are so many parallels to the business world to the sports world with any organization and any business. A lot of times when they don't have success people become entitled. Complacency sets in and the mindset in the organization is that it's there for their own personal benefit. So they feel the organization is dependent on them, so everything becomes what can they get out of the organization.
"I use the term totally aligned. Everyone must be in full alignment from the custodial workers to the front office workers, the coaching staff, the players, the training staff, equipment staff, anyone that is involved within our organization. Everyone speaks the same common language. They have the same goals. Total alignment in mindset, approach, vision, expectations, goals and accountability to each other. That's all based on trust. It's based on loyalty and it's based on direction. There is a standard and expectation and at the University of Tennessee those standards and expectations are always high no matter what it is.
"Whether it's your product on the field or off the field. Each individual in our organization is accountable for their own self determination and commitment."
There's no question Jones and his staff have done a lot of things well. They have recruited well and they have been relentless in recruiting. Yes, Jones won a big game in knocking off South Carolina. It's true, team #117 captured the hearts of the Vol fans with their effort against Georgia. And no it's not been perfect.
But if you are wanting to see, hear, and feel Jones and his staff's biggest accomplishment in their time in Knoxville, simply refer to the definition at the top of this ramble. Accountability. It's accountability in all areas. Accountability in game preparation. Accountability in the players' diet. Accountability in getting treatment. Accountability in being on time for meetings. The list goes on and on. It's a list that was highlighted on Wednesday with news of the Vols' classroom success with their APR.
In 2011-2012, Tennessee was dead last in the SEC with an APR of 924. A trend that, had it continued, would have had the Vols facing a postseason ban or at minimal a loss of practice time like Oklahoma State is facing.
Jones credits his players as he should for their efforts. He credits the Thornton Center and director Joe Scogin as he should. Scogin has done well. But the true credit belongs to Jones because he's not strayed from the plan. He's not compromised anything to get ahead. Jones has taken accountability for all that's happened in his program as a leader should. The result is a simple trickle down affect that has trickled down to everyone not just in his program but on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
"I think it's a great illustration of what is going on at Tennessee. That was the result of accountability with each other. Not just with the players, but with the Thornton Center staff, the coaching staff, our administration. I think it's a great illustration of the committed individuals that we have. We talk about one common commitment, one union of purpose. Again, I think the standards and expectations start in the classroom. There are so many entities, so many things that comprise a football program. The exciting thing is that we have complete alignment( not only in the Anderson Training Center but across campus from our professors to Jimmy Cheek, to Dave Hart, our administration, to Dr. Joe Scogin in the Thornton Center. We all have those high standards and expectations. But we all work exceptionally well together because we are all aligned. We have the same vision. We have the same belief. The same principles.
"That's why you see the results you see occurring right now."
Jones has said repeatedly over the last few months that he's never felt better about the direction of his program. He's also said that there is still plenty of work to do. And he's right: there's still plenty of work to be done. But it's work people believe in because of the accountability or standards that Jones has worked tirelessly to instill since his arrival in December of 2012.