Conversation with Dave Heeke
Just three years ago, it was then-Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly earning that honor, and now Jones will replace Kelly as head coach of the Bearcats after Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame last week.
“I am happy for Butch and I congratulate him on getting the job at Cincinnati,” CMU Athletics Director Dave Heeke said. “Butch did an outstanding job here in the three years he was head coach and he truly helped build a foundation for a successful program in the future. He was committed to CMU every day he was here and I know he will succeed at Cincinnati beyond everyone’s expectations.”
Jones will not coach the Chippewas in the GMAC Bowl against Troy on Jan. 6, rather defensive associate head coach and defensive ends coach Steve Stripling will take over head coaching duties on an interim basis for the Chippewas.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to lead this program,” Stripling said in a press release. “We want to make this a winning experience and have an enjoyable experience as well. This team has accomplished a lot already this season, and we are looking forward to achieving our goals of being bowl champions and finishing in the top 25.”
Stripling is in his first season as a coach with the Chippewas, but he has a lot of coaching experience after having coached for more than two decades in the Big Ten Conference.
Stripling was an assistant at Michigan in 2005-07 as a defensive line coach. Stripling also spent time in Minnesota (1997-2000), Indiana (1984-96), Northern Illinois (1980-83), and Louisville (2001-02).
Heeke said Stripling, along with any other assistants will be considered for the permanent coaching position if they choose to apply.
“We are going to consider anyone that expresses interest,” Heeke said. “It is a wide open search. We already had 100 inquiries about the job (Wednesday) and there are a lot of people expressing interest in the position.”
Heeke didn’t put a timeline on the hire because he wants to make sure he gets it right.
“We want to move as quickly as we can and we hope to have it done sooner rather than later, but the key is finding the right person,” Heeke said. “It has to be the right person at the right time who is the right fit. I won’t sacrifice finding the right man for the job in order to cut down on time. We will wait as long as we need to to find our man.”
The Chippewa players were informed of the change in coaching staff on Wednesday morning by Heeke.
“I think the players are doing okay,” Heeke said. “I didn’t detect any anger in them. I think some of them were disappointed, but these guys are focused on the finishing the season. These guys have had a great year and are led by a great group of seniors and they want to finish the season with a win and that is what they are focused on.”
With Cincinnati hiring Jones on Wednesday, Central Michigan receives a $700,000 payment from the Bearcats, which will go to athletics and help in the coaching search.
“The payment will be used to help offset expenses in the search, and that covers a multitude of levels,” Heeke said. “It will go to paying for a new coach and the costs of the search and paying for assistants and what not.”
The CMU football team continues practice today in preparation for the GMAC Bowl, which will take place on Jan. 6 from Ladd-Pebbles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.