Recently, BearcatLair.com was granted an interview with Butch Jones, and in this three part series, we will provide an in-depth look at several facets of the program. In Part I, Coach Jones talks about the family atmosphere he believes is at the core of his program.
With the start of camp less than two weeks away (August 8), BearcatLair.com spoke with Coach Jones about a number of topics, but we started with the oft repeated family values that Jones believes are at the center of his program. The second year UC head coach described what makes his program unique.
“Well, I think the first thing is building relations,” he said. “We’re in a people oriented position, and that’s what it’s all about. We feel the more you know about an individual; the more we can do for him. We see this as just like raising our own family. My wife and I look at it as we have 105 young men plus our three boys so we have 108 kids in our family. I want our players to see us as not only coaches but as fathers and husbands. That’s why you’ll see our wives and kids around practice.”
Like most college head coaches, Jones’ schedule is quite tight despite working very long hours, but he insists on having an “open door” policy for his players, and they constantly take advantage of it.
“It’s about each and every player,” said Jones, “and developing them to meet their full potential both on and off the field. Everyone has a responsibility to represent themselves, their family and the university in a first-class manner. This is what we are constantly educating our players on. This staff always has and will continue to do things to educate our players on the importance of making good choices so they will have the best opportunity to succeed not only on game day but in life as well.”
Jones continued, “Players come to my office to talk on a daily basis. When you have 105 young men in your program, they are going to have daily struggles. It might be a grandparent’s serious illness or parents going through a divorce or just girl friend problems or being home sick, but it gets back to the relationships you foster on a daily basis. I also get a lot of text messages when I’m on vacation, but you know you have a good relationship when players trust you enough to bring you their problems. That is also one of the most rewarding parts of coaching, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
It’s particularly satisfying for Jones when former players return to visit because they want to continue the relationship after college.
“The biggest joy comes after your players leave your program, but they care enough to come back,” he said. “In fact, I just met with a player that played in last year’s Super Bowl for the Green Bay Packers, and while he was in Cincinnati, he dropped by to show me his ring and see my family. Those things mean a lot because you know you made a difference in their lives.”
Last year’s Super Bowl included four players that Jones coached at Central Michigan. Josh Gordy, Cullen Jenkins and Frank Zombo played for the Packers while Antonio Brown was with the Steelers.
However, Jones doesn’t maintain contact with only his former players. He also cares about past Bearcats as shown by Connor Barwin’s return to UC after suffering a season ending injury with the Houston Texans last season.
“Connor Barwin returned to UC last year after his injury, and he made the dean’s list,” said Jones. “We paid for his schooling, and he worked out here, rehabbed his injury and finished his degree. He became a college student again.”
Jones has also instituted a new organization to improve the communication between the football program and the players’ parents
“I’m excited about our parents club, and our parents have really bought into it,” said Jones. “Game day is special for them too, and it gets back to that family element that we’ve been talking about. We’re all one family coming together, and that’s why we have our Family Day (at Higher Ground) and our new Parents’ Association.”
The parents of UC’s players have a special page available at gobearcats.com where they can more easily organize tailgating activities and become aware of other functions. The organization also helps out of town parents navigate through their son’s busy schedule, find convenient accommodations and get directions on where to go on game day. Jones’ assistant Sherry Murray organizes events along with Gail Davis (mother of Cincinnati’s starting center Evan Davis).
When asked to identify what he does best as a head coach, Jones sounded in part like a father.
“I think it’s attention to detail, and all those little things add up in a program. It’s also having a clear vision on what we want to do and where we want to go in all facets of the program. I’d also say caring for players. I’m going to push them hard every day. That’s my job, but I’m going to love them as well. Motivation is critical. The challenge is that great competitors and great teams are never satisfied. They have a constant hunger and are always looking to better themselves and to achieve at the highest possible level. They are committed to a standard of play and performance. We constantly stress the importance of mental conditioning. It is part of the ‘C Tough’ philosophy, and this controls the total make-up of an individual. It’s how they perceive things. It’s how they act. It’s what they believe in. It’s what they’re committed to, and it’s what their goals are. I care about our players, and I want them to be successful beyond football.”
Jones expects the same kind of caring attitude from his coaches.
“I expect our coaches to know everything about their players,” he said. “I think we need to be involved, and I think it shows. Players are in the coaches’ offices all the time, and when that happens, you know you’re doing something right.”
Part II in this series will look at Cincinnati’s recruiting.