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Part III In Depth with Butch Jones

In today’s third and final piece in this series, Coach Jones addresses a number of topics ranging from criticisms leveled at him to the importance of the 1200 Club.

Butch Jones

Butch Jones is known for his up tempo, physical and enthusiastic practices, and he wants that passion to continue over to game day. However, some Bearcat football fans seemed to get annoyed when players and coaches would chest bump while UC was trailing by two or three scores. The Bearcat head coach reacted to those criticisms.

“First of all, I’m a very passionate individual and so are our coaches,” said Jones. “I think it’s very important to bring a high energy level to the field. Also, college football is a grind, and with eighteen, nineteen and twenty-year-old individuals, I think you still have to make it fun. The Wall Street Journal did a study on ‘high fives’ and chest bumps as did the University of Cal-Berkley. The teams that do those types of things are usually successful and have great team chemistry. You win with team chemistry. We’ve done this before, and we know what it takes. It’s an infectious attitude, a mentality, a passion for what you’re doing. When you’re 4-8, everyone is looking at someone or something to blame, but that’s the way we’re going to do things. The program will be centered on passion and energy.”

Jones continued, “When you have a passion, a commitment and an energy level to be the best, it leads itself to have the work ethic, discipline, willingness to sacrifice and the overall effort that goes into being successful. Because of this, an individual and team will be able to persevere through any obstacle or situation that presents itself not only through the course of a game but throughout the course of a long season as well.”

Other coaches have been impressed with Jones’ attention to detail, and he takes that approach in all aspects of the program.

“Team building is about producing a team that has great team chemistry,” he said. “Team chemistry is paramount to having a successful team. It’s about having a group of individuals coming together as one. It’s being committed to the same goals, expectations and aspirations. It’s about a high level of accountability to each other based on trust, respect and everyone embracing their role and doing their job. It’s all about a positive attitude and a team having a great collective energy. Daily consistency is critical in this process. You really find out about team chemistry when a team is faced with adversity. This is why I am very encouraged by this year’s team. I feel we have the ingredients to be a team with great team chemistry. To continue this, every individual must take responsibility for their own self-determination.”

The comprehensive training that Bearcats receive under Jones also includes participation in outreach programs for the community.

“We want to develop the total person. We are continually working to develop each and every person in our football family to reach their full potential not only on the field but off the field as well. It begins with a personal development that includes leadership development, spiritual development, mental conditioning, academic excellence and being champions in the community. We want our players to leave here with a great education and to be a well-rounded individual who is equipped to handle any obstacle or adversity that life presents. Based on my past experiences, if a person is winning off the field, they will win on the field as well.”

Most Bearcat fans knows Cincinnati returns every starter on defense, but what is often overlooked is they also return everyone on the coaching staff despite some overtures for significantly more money. Jones believes this will be a key contributor to the team’s improvement in 2011.

Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Steve Stripling stayed at Cincinnati despite being offered more money to coach at other BCS programs.

“It’s the first time in a number of years here that we will return the same defensive coordinator and the coaching staff has stayed completely intact. You win with continuity and consistency. This spring we could go in and pick up where we left off. Our players know and understand what is expected of them. Now we can focus more on the fundamentals and the fine details. I think keeping the staff together was a big plus for us.”

Butch Jones experienced much success at Central Michigan posting a 22-8 conference record and a Top 25 finish in 2009. However, after a disappointing first season at UC, he was asked what he’s learned.

“I believe as a coach that you are constantly learning. You never stop learning. There were some key areas I take from last year as does our entire team. First and foremost is the ability to handle adversity. We have learned to stay focused on the bulls’ eye, believe in what you’re doing but keep working. There is such a fine line between winning and losing. It gets back to the thing we constantly talk about, and that is the mental conditioning element. It’s the mental conditioning as a program. It’s accountability in all aspects and everyone being responsible for their actions, personal development and self-determination. What happened last year means absolutely nothing to what’s going to happen this year. Every team determines its own identity and personality. It’s having a maturity and work ethic that is constant every day. It’s about production and how you perform each day and each game.”

Ray Nolting (1945-1948), Sid Gilman (1949-1954) and Tony Mason (1973-1976) are the only winning coaches since World War II to remain at the University of Cincinnati for at least four seasons. Mike Gottfried (1981-1982) left for Kansas after posting a modest 12-10 record, Mark Dantonio (2004-2006) skipped town for Michigan State after a mundane 18-17 three year tally and Brian Kelly (2007-2009) went to Notre Dame after his impressive 34-6 record. Jones was asked why he would be any different.

“The first thing you look at are my three young kids and ask yourself where you want them to grow up,” he said. “Being here in Cincinnati has been great for my family. The school systems and the people have made it a great situation, and we love living here. It’s a great community to raise a family, but I think the next important step is for us is to have the ability to continue to grow and elevate our program. This is a very competitive business that never stays the same. You must look to find every possible advantage that you can.”

Jones has certainly done his part with programs like his 1,200 Club and the new Rob Heidt Family Players Lounge. The players’ lounge was largely constructed due to the generosity of Dr. Robert Heidt and his wife and bears his name while Laz-Z-Boy contributed much of the furniture. Jones talked about the importance of having this type of support from boosters.

“My attitude has always been to find a way to get things done,” he said. “You look at the 1200 Club. If we didn’t have the 1200 Club right now, I’d have no idea where we’d be. The 1200 Club is making a difference, and we need to continue to grow it. We also need season ticket renewals and loyalty to our program that will allow us to continue to sellout Nippert Stadium and make Paul Brown Stadium a real home field advantage.”

The 1200 Club consists of Bearcat football supporters willing to contribute $1,200 to the program. The money goes to enhance the recruiting budget, improve the locker room and players’ lounge as well as other needs not covered by the university’s budget. In return for their contributions, 1200 Club members have a number of activities and perks that include many behind the scene looks at the program.

“Members get an all-access pass to Bearcat football,” said Jones. “We host a day at Camp Higher Ground where members can sit in staff meetings, eat with our players and watch practice. We have outings at a donor or booster’s house, and I want to do something at my house because their support is so appreciated.”

Members also get access to the press box for the spring game, sideline passes for some games and extended time with the football staff at some functions as well as shirts, hats and wrist bands. Bearcat football fans can still join the 1200 Club by calling UCATS at 513-556-4884.

Part I: In Depth with Butch Jones

Part II: In Depth with Butch Jones

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