The 38th football coach in the history of UC football was introduced Wednesday at the Kingsgate Marriott in the same room where the 37th football coach was introduced. Only this time, it was a former quarterback doing the introducing.
No, Greg Cook wasn't there. Neither were Deontey Kenner, Gino Guidugli or Ben Mauk.
This former quarterback is still barking out the signals, examining coverages and orchestrating drives.
It's UC's President, Dr. Gregory Williams, once the terror of the gridiron for Muncie Central (Indiana).
In a job requiring him to balance budgets, appease faculty, and attract funding, it's fun for Dr. Williams to put his athletic background to use in introducing football coaches. At UC's Bowl Selection Show party, Williams seemed in his element congratulating Brian Kelly and greeting the undefeated Bearcat football players.
Then, as Kelly wandered off to Notre Dame and Mike Thomas found another proven winner, Williams had the good fortune to be the one to officially introduce Butch Jones to Bearcat fans.
"Absolutely, I'm delighted," said Williams. "I've had a chance to visit with him. He's a tremendous coach, he has all the right values. He wants to be a winning football team on the field, but he's committed to helping them develop as individuals."
Dr. Williams obviously has come a long way from his signal-calling days at Muncie Central, as few high school quarterbacks ever make it the illustrious job of "University President". Still, the quarterback is generally regarded as the smartest guy on the field. Williams showed as much by passing off the praise of the Jones hire to his teammates, in this case, Athletic Director Mike Thomas.
"Mike Thomas has put this all together, but he's kept me informed all along the way," said Williams. "We've had very close conversations. I felt fully informed and I'm really pleased to be here and be a part of this process."
Part of the process was to find someone to "sell the program" as Brian Kelly did. While it's tough to match Kelly's political savvy at a reception, snaring a guy that shares the same on-field philosophies as the guy that just guided your team to an undefeated season was important. Of all of the "outside" candidates, Butch Jones probably brought the biggest "wow factor" to the equation.
With the Jefferson Avenue indoor complex needing funding and thoughts of expanding Nippert Stadium, creating "buzz" with your coaching hire was crucial.
"He's a great coach--he's going to be a fantastic coach," said Williams. "He's going to allow us to continue that momentum, I'm absolutely convinced of that. He's the right guy for the University of Cincinnati."
Accordingly, Dr. Williams appears to be the right guy for fans of UC athletics. After all, not many college presidents have cousins that are NFL coaches (Jay and Jonathan Hayes of the Bengals). Also, not many played a fair amount of basketball and football. (Again, for the record, Dr. Williams claims he was a better football player than "roundballer". And, he played for the Muncie Central BEARCATS!) Furthermore, Williams served on the Big 12 Board of Athletics while at Iowa.
So, in between books,papers,briefs, thesis presentations, proclamations and commencements, the "Prez" has taken in a game or two.
Now, not only does Dr. Williams get to watch the Bearcats play one more game this season, he also gets a pretty good Sugar Bowl seat as UC President.
"Well, I enjoy it," Williams admitted. "But, what I enjoy really more than anything else is celebrating what these young men have done and how they've really come together and gelled as a team and have been committed to success. Like Coach Jones said, no coach ever throws a touchdown pass, makes a tackle--the President doesn't do the same thing. It's an opportunity to celebrate what they have done and the great reflection that is on the University of Cincinnati."
In hiring Butch Jones, AD Mike Thomas and Dr. Williams have stuck with a winning formula: wide-open offense, good-conditioned student-athletes and tremendous passion. Jones mentioned Wednesday that he likes passionate individuals, so one can see where the coach and the President are going to get along.
Plus, every quarterback enjoys chucking the ball around. True to form, Dr. Williams anxiously awaits what he'll see from Jones and company in 2010.
"Absolutely, it's a great philosophy," said Williams. "I'm a great fan and I have high expectations. We're going to play not only at a championship level, but we're going to have a program with integrity, a program that understands that this is a multi-dimensional sport, in the sense that there's responsibilities outside the locker room and off the football field."
Obviously, it was more than football and basketball that attracted Dr. Gregory Williams to Cincinnati. He has plenty more on his table beyond sitting next to his latest, highly-paid coach. But, you can hear the "fan" in his voice and there's no question that UC's recent ascension into big-time college football has improved its profile. Admittedly, athletics were part of the attraction to bring Williams to the Queen City.
"This is something that made this job very attractive to me," Williams said. "I spent 16 years at the University of Iowa, was actively involved with athletics there. I was at Ohio State for eight years and I've always been a fan of big-time sports."
In the end, it all comes down to sports analogies anyway. Teamwork, "crossing the goal line", "hitting a home run", "slam dunk", "winning the game", dedication, determination, "going the extra mile", "running point", "following the game plan",etc. are terms that are heard everyday in conference rooms across the world. Maybe the language changes here and there, but it's all translatable.
Some will claim sports are insignificant and meaningless. I would argue that they enhance the image and marketability of a school. Particularly, when you have a team that's been plastered on national TV for most of the season. A three-hour "commercial" on a major network on New Year's night isn't something to take lightly.
While I'm as excited as anyone over the hiring of Butch Jones, a guy that should keep the football program rolling, I'm equally excited to have a University President that understands the playbook.