Butch Jones Abandons His Family: Next Coach In

In the fast paced world of college football its easy for head coaches to chase the glamor, prestige, and money of “the next job”. The greener grass, if you will. To schools they are, in a sense, hired arms aimed to bring programs championships, more revenue, and increased buzz around the program. They get paid millions of dollars to accomplish this and if they don’t they are shown the door unmercifully. It’s as high-risk high-reward an occupation as any in the United States. With some of the highest turnover of any career in the country there really is a sense among head coaches of getting as much as they can while the getting is good.

This is why head coaches bounce around so often and seem to continuously move up the ranks to more prestigious programs with fatter paychecks, because most of the time one or two bad mistakes can send them to the unemployment line.

And it seems like the money, prestige, and fame was enough to pull Butch Jones away from Cincinnati.

Amidst the constant talk of “family”, “signing your name to the program”, and “representing the C”, I suppose those three factors above are all it takes to throw those things out the window. That’s what we have to realize here. Coaches now-a-days are less tied to the university they work for than the people who serve food at the football games. But I don’t blame Butch Jones for this. If anyone of us were in his shoes we would have jumped at the cash being thrown our way, too.

Tennessee will give Butch a hefty raise to coach at one of the best football programs in the country. It’s experienced tough times of late (read: the last decade) but there is enough donor support, the facilities are grand enough, and the fanbase is committed enough for him to turn it around. As I mentioned yesterday UT’s location in the South is right in his wheelhouse recruiting-wise. Know how he was able to elevate the talent level on the Bearcats? Because of the prospects he mined in Memphis, Atlanta, and Florida. Expect him to hit those recruiting grounds hard for the Volunteers.

Turning our attention back to his departure the only issue I have had through this process isn’t that Butch left or how he left, it’s how he let the process unfold. He interviewed with Purdue and Colorado last weekend. Ultimately it looked like his decision came down to leaving for Colorado or staying at Cincinnati. But as sniffs of Tennessee expressing interest in him started to hit the rumormill, Jones appears to have strung both the Buffs and Bearcats along to hold out hope for a UT offer. That is, he was hoping multiple coaches would turn down the job so the Vols would finally come after him. And they did, five coaches later evidently.

In the meantime it sounds like Cincinnati still felt it had a shot at him throughout that entire process. It was either Colorado or Cincinnati, and a decision was just hours away. Instead it looks like Butch wanted Tennessee all along and UC was kept in the dark the entire time. As a result, Whit Babcock was unable to go out and interview some of the best up-and-coming coaches in the country such as Gus Malzahn, Darrel Hazell, and Sonny Dykes who are all off the board. That’s my biggest problem with this process. But other than that I really don’t hold anything against Jones. I respect the man for further elevating the status of Cincinnati football and always placing his players interests first. He was a great coach and packed the Lindner Center trophy case with more hardware.

And we should always be grateful to him for that.

As I close this piece I’m reminded of the unfortunate events at quarterback four years ago. That season (2008) Brian Kelly was coming off a very strong first year winning 10 games including the PapaJohns.com Bowl and was looking to build off of that in a new campaign. But he was dealt a laundry list of injuries at his most important position, quarterback. Dustin Grutza was first, being knocked out against Oklahoma. In stepped Tony Pike who was later injured against the Akron Zips. Then Chazz Anderson took over to keep the Goode Ship Bearcats afloat until Tony Pike returned, probably too soon, in a loss at Connecticut. But despite the upheaval at quarterback (they were down to their 3rd string!!) Cincinnati still went 4 – 2 over that span. As a result the phrase “Next Man In” was coined as a playful message that UC could survive any seemingly cataclysmic change on the field and just keep right on winning football games.

This phrased carried with the Bearcats from that season onwards and even through the end of the 2009 season. As we all know, at the end of a remarkable 12 – 0 campaign, Brian Kelly jumped ship for Notre Dame sneaking out of Cincinnati in the middle of the night. Fans and players were up in arms that a coach could abandon his team in the middle of the best season in school history. It seemed unfathomable!

And when they finally put the pitch forks, torches, and eggs (probably) down the Cincinnati fanbase dug in and announced their resilience bolstered by the slogan “Next Coach In”. It wasn’t as playful this time around but was a dig at the phrase created around Brian Kelly’s team. In a way it was a means for the fanbase to find closure or at least create humor out of the situation.

Really it’s been a slogan UC fans have been able to rally around for years now. This program has been backed into a corner a number of times, from both Mark Dantonio and Kelly leaving to the Big East being all-but-dissolved. But what Cincinnati football has proven is that it can withstand major upheavals and is strong enough to survive the outcome of any seemingly drastic change. This football program is now bigger than the coach and is absolutely built for long-term success.

So, next coach in.

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