Butch Jones sat in a room Dec. 4 with University of Cincinnati president Santa Ono and a representative of the Belk Bowl and told the media — which was most certainly not there to discuss the Dec. 27 game against Duke — he had every intention of coaching the Bearcats in that game and beyond.
It’s pretty much the same thing Mark Dantonio said in the same room in 2006 and what Brian Kelly said three years later. It’s what football coaches do.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. A good coach can succeed at UC and good coaches can be brought to UC.
Hem and haw all you want about it being a stepping stone — at the very least, it’s a step that a good coach is not only willing to take but would be happy to take. It wasn’t long ago that a coach turned down an extension at UC to take a job at an Ivy League school. Jones’ successors have gone to Michigan State and Notre Dame, while Jones has been romanced by schools in the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten. Whoever is the next coach will know this, and they’ll know this is a place they can win and use to go somewhere else.
You know who gets plucked for other jobs? Those who are successful. It’s when nobody wants your coach in college football that you should be worried.
Because of the upward mobility aspect of the profession, UC — no matter its conference designation — is an attractive job. While mired in Conference USA, the team’s ceiling was the Liberty Bowl, and that’s it. Now, even though it would take a couple of hurdles to clear, the Bearcats have a shot at the BCS or whatever its successor will be called. That path won’t always be easy, but it’s easier than going through Ohio State if somehow UC got into the Big Ten or the likes of Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12.
UC has already shown it will pay a head coach a competitive salary.
It can save a little money on an up-and-comer, like Dantonio, Kelly and Jones all once were. No matter who is on the sidelines on Saturday, there will still be games and UC will still field a team — and if the last nine years have shown us anything, it’s that they can be successful. The sky isn’t falling, just as it wasn’t when other coaches flirted with programs and ultimately left.
Thinking Out Loud
Are we less mad at Brian Kelly now? It’s funny: The vilification of Mark Dantonio was strong, until Kelly left. And now that Kelly’s gone, maybe that forgiveness can take over. Remember, no matter what anyone tells you or writes (myself included), football coaches are always looking out for themselves. Not because they’re football coaches, but because they’re humans. ... The conference shuffle is the biggest college sports story in the last 25 years, and even with the local teams getting the shortest end of the stick, it doesn’t seem like it’s all that interesting to many in town. I find it fascinating. Bearcats fans are worried — and they should be — yet it’s not been a mainstream topic in town. ... The Major League Baseball winter meetings recently concluded in Satan’s waiting room, the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. The event is one of the great made-up events in sports, perhaps even worse than the NFL combine. Listen, trades and free agent signings don’t have to be made at the winter meetings. Every year it seems Reds fans get up in arms because Walt Jocketty didn’t make a splash over the four days that are blown out all over TV and the Internet. He hasn’t chosen to make those kinds of moves at the meetings and I’d hope most would agree he’s done OK. Just because the winter meetings are over doesn’t mean no deals can take place. Jocketty, it must be noted, has a cell phone, as do the other general managers in baseball. ... Really looking forward to Redsfest, my yearly winter taste of baseball. The event is really one of the jewels of this city and it’s amazing to see just how much the event has grown under Bob Castellini. It’s yet another indication of the work the ownership group has put into the team since taking over. ... I talked to a couple of Bengals the Monday after the Jovan Belcher tragedy in Kansas City. Their reaction was similar to mine: disbelief, disgust and total sympathy for the families of those involved, as well as the Chiefs. It hits harder when something like this happens in your peer group, and Belcher was in their peer group. What neither of the two players I talked to had thought about was how close they’d been to Belcher. Just two weeks before, the Bengals played the Chiefs, and according to at least one report, Belcher suffered several hard hits against the Bengals and was dazed afterward. He played just three snaps in the next game, his final game. That’s something that’s difficult to think about — and I’m not saying there’s any culpability for those Bengals who hit Belcher — they were doing what they always do and what both sides had agreed upon. It’s just that it’s hard not to think about how everything can fit together, including my culpability for watching and enjoying the game.