My interview with Butch Jones, part III

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Two weeks ago, I was invited into Butch Jones' office for a little question and answer session. I hadn't met Jones yet, so I was interested to see him in his new digs, how he was adjusting to his new job and how he would answer my questions. Here's part III of III of my interview. In case you missed part I, click on this link. And part II is right here.

Part III begins here:


Josh Katzowitz: I saw a little Skyline Chili gift basket outside your office. Have you been to Skyline yet?


Butch Jones: Oh yeah, I've been to Skyline a number of times. You saw the basket? That's one example of the support we've received since coming here.


JK: There's a Skyline neck tie in there. Are you going to wear the tie?


BJ: I may. You know what? I've been so busy I haven't been able to look at it too much. I went right for the crackers. I may sport that tie every now and then again.


KOTC: That's the major headline. Jones: I May Sport that Skyline Tie Every Now and Again. Anyway, getting back to talking about Nippert Stadium and making it a tough ticket to get. Obviously you're getting some new practice facilities, and there's a lot of talk about expanding Nippert. Were do you stand on that?


BJ: The thing that excites me is the term they use about Nippert being the Wrigley Field of college football. You look at it and look at the great tradition that's been played in Nippert Stadium and the great atmosphere and the great environment. It's our job to put a product on the field that people want to come and watch. Also, the gameday environment: it's fan friendly, it's family friendly. I want to make it an event, and when you do that and people witness that, they want to keep coming back. I haven't really thought too much about (stadium expansion). But it's something to be said about college football and the environment and the nostalgia that comes with gameday. We obviously have that here, and I'm excited to witness that and build upon that.


JK: What's going on with the practice fields? Is it still on for this year?


BJ: It's still going. I'm very excited. That's the continuation of the building process of this football program. To be able to have a practice facility like that, to be able, when the weather gets cold for bowl prep or November games, to go inside a climate-controlled practice facility, it's going to be big for our program.


JK: You guys had that at West Virginia, right?


BJ: Yes, and we had it at Central (Michigan) too.


JK: Invariably, the comparisons to you and Brian Kelly are going to continue to exist. I don't know much you had that at Central. I imagine it was a little bit ...


BJ: Big.


JK: Obviously, you're not the same guy, you're not the same personality, you're not the same coach. How do you deal with that?


BJ: I don't spend too much time thinking about it. My sole focus is working hard each and every day to make everyone proud of the UC football program. Building upon the championship culture that exists here and making this program better each and every day. I don't lend myself to comparisons between myself and Brian Kelly. I don't even know what's out there. The big thing is it's about the kids, our players. It's about developing our players on the field and off the field.


JK: You guys are similar in the way in that you spent some time in Division III football (at Wilkes University). How did that work in your development?


BJ: It really lends itself to your development. There are so many things you have to do coaching at those levels. It makes you appreciate the game. You're coaching for the love of the game. You're having to do the laundry, you're having to coach other sports. When I was there, I was the head men's tennis coach and the intramural director. The passion you have to have to coach football, the sacrifices you have to do that are associated with that. It really lends into your development.


JK: Were you a pretty good tennis coach?


BJ: No.


JK: I think that's about it. Anything else I should be asking that you want to get out there?


BJ: We want high expectations. But people also need to be realistic. We've been through it, we've taken over a program and built upon it. There were growing pains at first. But if you look at how we developed the program there ... when I took the job at Central Michigan, I said we were going to be a top-25 football program. Everyone looked at me and they laughed and chuckled and said that can't be done at Central Michigan. We finished 23rd in the country this year. Any time you go 12-2 in the MAC with an out of conference schedule that includes Michigan State, Arizona and Boston College, that doesn't happen by mistake. We know how to take a program to the next level.


"We beat Northern Illinois for the first time at their place in years. Three years ago, we beat Western Michigan and it was the first time we had won at their place since 1993. We did it again this year. We took them to three straight bowl games. That had never been accomplished. The top-25 ranking is huge. Been there three years and two conference championships. We were getting everybody's best shot. We were the hunted each and every game.


JK: It strikes me that you can have a great season next year. You could go 9-3 and go to, say, the Meineke Car Care Bowl and it would seem almost like a step down. How do you deal with that?


BJ: You just continue to build a football program. You just look at the world of college football. There's parity everywhere. What separates winning and losing is inches. It's maybe three or four plays in a game. It's a decision here or a decision there. Winning is very fragile and staying on top is very fragile as well. But you wouldn't want it any other way.


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