While it’s obviously not ideal to lose a football coach every three years, it is just as clear that it’s not the end of the world for Bearcat football.
I am genuinely happy for Butch Jones. I know that he and his family loved it here, and that it was difficult for him to leave administrators, boosters, fans, and friends that treated him well. Most of all, it was hard for him to leave his players. But having just played a road game at Tennessee last season, I can certainly understand why he took the job. The football facilities are palatial and he’ll have anything and everything he needs to try to win SEC championships (with the notable exception of imminent retirement plans for Nick Saban or Les Miles).
I hope that Butch is the third straight former UC coach to make us proud at his next stop. Mark Dantonio is 50-28 at Michigan State and going to a bowl game for the sixth straight year. Brian Kelly is about to play for a national championship at Notre Dame. Cincinnati’s oldest football rival claims the title of “The Cradle of Coaches,” but in the last decade, UC deserves that nickname.
The last three coaches have all left the program better than they found it. Mark Dantonio came in and laid infrastructure, methodically building a BCS-level program. Brian Kelly energized the fan base like never before and taught us that anything – including competing for national titles – is possible at UC. Butch Jones proved that the Kelly era wasn’t a fluke, and devoted every ounce of his energy toward making the school as appealing as possible to recruits.
They deserve kudos for Cincinnati’s success over the last nine years, but you know what? UC deserves a ton of credit for their success too. It’s a program located in a high school football hotbed that can go to major bowl games by winning conference titles. It also comes with a salary of more than a million dollars a year in a great place to live. I know of several impressive candidates that have already expressed interest in the job (and no, I am not at liberty to share names).
“Anytime that you make a hire of this magnitude it’s pretty darn important, but we’re not intimidated by it,” said athletic director Whit Babcock. “We have a heck of a job, a heck of a track record, and a state that’s tremendous to recruit in. We have proven success in winning titles, we have a plan for facilities, and my goodness, if you look at the last three coaches – there’s a little pressure to produce on that level – but we’ll get a good coach. We’ve already received a lot of interest and we’ve been prepared for it.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job as an AD if we weren’t prepared. Since August, a small number of us have been working on potential coach replacements. We’ve added people to the list, we’ve taken some off, and we’ve followed their progression throughout the season. We are prepared, and we will get a great coach.”
I thought that Whit’s performance at Friday’s news conference was the best I’ve ever seen under similar circumstances and I hope that Bearcat fans share my confidence that he and President Santa Ono are doing what is necessary to put the Cincinnati athletic department in the best possible position to thrive in the future.
“I’m disappointed today because Butch Jones was a good friend and we lost a good coach,” said prominent UC supporter Larry Sheakley. “But if I can make a statement as a booster, I’m confident that this University and the athletic director did everything in their power to keep him. Everything. And they’re doing everything that they can to get us where we need to be.”
One of those things was briefly mentioned in the news conference – a plan of action for improving Nippert Stadium that will be announced in the near future.
“You’ll have to wait,” said Babcock. “I would rather that (announcement) be a celebration than what today is about. I think it’s an exciting vision.”
Whit ended his news conference with a call to action for Bearcat fans. If you want to see this program continue to grow, you can make a difference by supporting the 11th-ranked basketball team and by traveling to the Belk Bowl on December 27th in Charlotte.
“Quite frankly, if every fan that had e-mailed me, texted me, called me, and Tweeted at me about Butch or the next head coach had bought a ticket, we would have sold our allotment out two times over,” said Babcock.
If you can’t make the trip, you can show your support for as little as $50 by purchasing and donating Belk Bowl tickets here.
“We have a promotion called ‘One Team, One Ticket ‘ and that’s for people that cannot go to a bowl game but want to buy a ticket – at least one – and donate them back to us,” said Babcock. “We’ll put them to good use. If you want to step up to the plate today and make a statement to the nation that we’re about more than a coach, that is a great action step to take.”
The search for a new coach has started, but the momentum generated by the last three isn’t about to stop.
“Hiring good coaches is absolutely critical to our success, but we’re bigger than any one individual,” said Babcock. “We’ll survive and we’ll thrive.”
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