Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Cincy introduces Jones
CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati went right back to Central Michigan for its next coach.
Butch Jones was hired on Wednesday to replace Brian Kelly, who came from Central Michigan three years ago and built the Bearcats program into national prominence before leaving for Notre Dame last week. Now, it's up to one of his former assistants to keep it there.
The fourth-ranked Bearcats (12-0) won their second straight Big East title, finished third in the BCS rankings and earned a chance to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
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"It's very rare to have the opportunity to come in and take over a two-time defending champion and the No. 3 team in the country," said Jones, who was introduced at an evening news conference after agreeing to a five-year deal.
The chance came along because Kelly left for Notre Dame last Thursday. Jeff Quinn, who was his offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, was named interim coach and will direct the team in its first Sugar Bowl appearance while Jones settles in.
"I'm going to be around," Jones said. "But I'm going to be in the background. I think it's all about them finishing what they started."
Central Michigan plays Troy in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6. Associate head coach Steve Stripling was named interim coach on Wednesday for the Chippewas' bowl game.
Jones' familiarity with the Big East and his penchant for wide-open offense were major factors in getting him to Cincinnati.
He worked under Kelly for one year at Central Michigan before going to West Virginia as offensive coordinator for two years under Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers had one of the nation's top offenses while he was there in 2005-06. When Kelly left for Cincinnati, Jones went back to Central Michigan, got his job and bought his home.
The two coaches stayed in touch over the years. Jones said he spoke with Kelly after accepting the job on Wednesday and was reminded about their house-sharing history.
"I bought his house in Mt. Pleasant," Jones said. "That's the first thing he said: 'Want to buy my house?"
Considering that Kelly's house in suburban Cincinnati got egged after he took the Notre Dame job, Jones may want to reconsider.
Kelly said in a phone interview with the AP on Wednesday night that their offensive philosophies are similar.
"He was on my staff, so he knows the system that we used and his system obviously mirrors a lot of things," Kelly said. "Some of the things he has tweaked toward his personnel. They're not very far apart. It's going to be spread, fast-paced, exciting."
Kelly said they talked a few times a year, and traded ideas this past season that both found useful.
"We actually shared some things that showed up in both of our game plans," Kelly said.
Jones met with Bearcats players on Wednesday, the day before they hold their first practice for the Sugar Bowl. His offensive philosophy was a major selling point. Like Kelly, the new coach likes a fast-paced offense that throws the ball a lot.
The Chippewas had some of the best offenses in their history under Jones, who led them to the Mid-American Conference title this season and their first national ranking.
"His innovative mind and energy make him a knockout choice," athletic director Mike Thomas said.
Cincinnati returns quarterback Zach Collaros, a sophomore who started and won four games this season when senior Tony Pike was hurt, and the core of an offense that is among the best in the country in passing and scoring.
He quickly got to his offensive philosophy, which was a concern for returning players recruited to fit Kelly's no-huddle system.
"I know you're all waiting for this: A wide-open, spread offense," Jones said.