Report: C. Michigan's Jones favorite for Cincy job

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Three years after Cincinnati hired Brian Kelly from Central Michigan, the fourth-ranked Bearcats are looking at another Chippewas coach to replace him.

Central Michigan's Butch Jones emerged Tuesday as the school's choice to replace Kelly, according to a person familiar with the coaching search.

The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., reported that Jones was negotiating a contract with Cincinnati on Tuesday night. A person familiar with Cincinnati's search, speaking on condition of anonymity because no deal was complete, confirmed Jones was the top option.

It would mark the second time in three years that the Bearcats turned to the Mid-American Conference school for their head coach. They hired Kelly after his three-year stay at Central Michigan, where his spread offense was one of the nation's best.

Jones has kept the high-powered offensive approach and built on Kelly's success at Central Michigan, winning the MAC title this season by beating Ohio. The Chippewas finished the season at No. 25, their first time in the national rankings.

Cincinnati (12-0) has moved quickly to replace Kelly, who accepted Notre Dame's coaching job last Thursday. The team has been off since then. Offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn, who has been Kelly's assistant for the last 22 years, said Tuesday afternoon he hoped to get the job even though he had no head coaching experience.

Quinn was promoted to interim coach when Kelly left, given responsibility for getting the Bearcats ready to face Florida in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The Bearcats are scheduled to resume practice on Thursday.

It's unclear whether Jones, if he reaches a deal, would coach Cincinnati in its bowl game. The Chippewas will play Troy in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6.

Jones' offensive philosophy and his familiarity with the Big East worked in his favor. He was an offensive coordinator at Central Michigan before moving to West Virginia as an assistant to Rich Rodriguez in 2005-06. When Kelly left for Cincinnati, he got his job at Central Michigan.

While Jones was at West Virginia, the Mountaineers had one of the nation's top offenses. That worked in his favor - next season, Cincinnati will return the nucleus of an offense that is one of the nation's best. Cincinnati is looking to keep its wide-open offensive philosophy.

Quinn coached Central Michigan to a 31-14 win over Middle Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl in 2006 after Kelly left for Cincinnati.

Whoever coaches the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl has a tough challenge. Players were angry and stunned when Kelly told them last Thursday - after their annual awards banquet - that he was leaving for Notre Dame. A week earlier, Kelly had told his players he was happy in Cincinnati, and said on a radio show that he was staying.

All the change could lead to a distracted team for the bowl game.

"Our focus is to congratulate them for being 12-0 and getting them ready for the Sugar Bowl," Quinn said earlier Tuesday. "We've circled the wagons.

"Sometimes, it feels like you're drinking water through a fire hose. We have to get their minds off the process of who is the next coach and focus on the task at hand. The message isn't changing. It's just coming from a different voice."

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