December 16, 2009
When Brian Kelly left Central Michigan for Cincinnati after three years and an unlikely conference championship at CMU, the Chippewas plucked Butch Jones from Rich Rodriguez's staff in West Virginia to sustain Kelly's success. That he did: In three years under Jones, Central Michigan is 22-3 in MAC games, took two more conference titles and finished this season in the AP's Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.
So with Kelly off for Notre Dame after three years and two unlikely conference championships at Cincinnati, Jones looks like the natural choice to reprise his role as steward of Kelly's kingdom:
Central Michigan's Butch Jones is expected to be named the new head football coach at the University of Cincinnati.
The [Cincinnati] Enquirer confirmed Tuesday that Jones and East Carolina coach Skip Holtz both interviewed for the job with UC athletic director Mike Thomas, with Jones emerging as the frontrunner.
I would call Jones over Holtz -- who turned a wretched program at ECU into back-to-back Conference USA championships -- a minor upset, but Cincy's Rivals site ($), the Mount Pleasant, Mich., Morning Sun and ESPN have all confirmed Jones as the choice, as well. The deal is expected to be finalized this morning.
The main question about Jones' success at Central Michigan is how much of it was tied to record-breaking quarterback Dan LeFevour, the Rust Belt Tebow, who stood head and shoulders over almost every other quarterback in the MAC four years in a row and will likely be one of the top quarterbacks in April's draft. Jones' quarterback at Cincinnati for the next two years, Zach Collaros, isn't quite so physically imposing -- although he did have four brilliant starts in place of senior Tony Pike to keep the Bearcats' perfect season alive in the heart of the Big East schedule and has most of the offense back next fall. If Jones' initial task is to preserve the status quo as the top program in the Big East, he'll inherit the roster for it.