Cincinnati coach Jones weighing options

Coach Butch Jones was weighing his options Tuesday after

returning to Cincinnati’s campus after two days of interviews at

Purdue and Colorado.

Jones attended a news conference about the Bearcats’ appearance

in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27 against Duke. Cincinnati (9-3) finished

with a share of the Big East title for the fourth time in the last

five years.

He declined to talk about his interviews or his future.

”I’m still the coach here, that’s all that matters,” Jones

said. ”This is about the Belk Bowl. I have every intention (of

coaching in the bowl). You have to understand why we’re here. If

you don’t, we can end it right now.”

School officials were meeting with him to see what it would take

to keep him at Cincinnati, where he’s finishing his third season.

He signed a contract extension following last season that stretches

through 2017 with a $1.4 million buyout if he leaves before Jan.


Keeping football coaches has been a challenge for Cincinnati.

The last two used the job as a stepping stone to a bigger program,

leaving after three-year stints.

Mark Dantonio oversaw the Bearcats’ move into the Big East, but

was discouraged with their inability to draw much of a crowd at

35,000-seat Nippert Stadium – a sticking point for years. Dantonio

landed at Michigan State.

Brian Kelly took over after the 2006 season and led the program

to its greatest heights, including appearances in the Orange Bowl

and the Sugar Bowl. He also left after three seasons to coach at

Notre Dame, his dream job. Kelly went to South Bend as the unbeaten

Bearcats were preparing for their first Sugar Bowl appearance,

leaving the team in disarray. They got drubbed by Florida, 51-24,

while Kelly was settling in at Notre Dame.

Jones, who succeeded Kelly at Central Michigan, also replaced

him at Cincinnati. The Bearcats have gone 23-14 in three seasons

under Jones, including a win over Vanderbilt at the Liberty Bowl

last season.

During Jones’ tenure, the university has expanded its practice

facilities, adding a football field with a protective bubble for

bad weather. The school also has been trying to figure out a way to

upgrade Nippert, which is the second-oldest playing site in the

nation for a college team behind Penn’s Franklin Field. Nippert has

been in use since 1901.

Despite their Big East success, the Bearcats have played in

front of less-than-capacity crowds at Nippert much of the time.

They drew only 21,171 fans on senior night – their smallest crowd

of the season – for a 27-10 win over South Florida.

The university also has been trying to find a place during the

Big East’s massive exodus. Last month, Louisville was accepted into

the Atlantic Coast Conference, which also considered Cincinnati but

chose one of its biggest rivals instead.

Jones interviewed at Purdue on Sunday and at Colorado a day

later. Bearcats players have off this week before resuming practice

for the Charlotte bowl. The players talked among themselves about

Jones’ future and were awaiting his decision.

Players were trying not to get caught up in the uncertainty.

”It’s not a big deal for us,” junior defensive lineman Jordan

Stepp said.