Thursday, December 31, 2009

News on CMU Assistants

As a new head coach will be named in the coming weeks for Central Michigan, it seems to becoming more clear that the new coach will not be an inside hire.
Butch Jones is working to put together his staff at Cincinnati and sources close to Jones and the Central Michigan program have confirmed that many of the current CMU assistants are expected to head to Cincinnati following the GMAC Bowl on Wednesday.
Both coordinators, Mike Bajakian and Tim Banks will be going to Cincinnati, as will interim head coach, Steve Stripling.
Offensive line coach Don Mahonay, linebackers coach Tim Elder, and strength and conditioning coach Dave Lawson will also be joining Jones in Cincinnati, as will many of the graduate assistants, including Tony Pape and Ryan Oshnock.
Those not heading to Cincinnati include running backs coach Jeff Beckles, tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Max Glowacki, special teams coordinator and defensive tackles coach Paul Volero, and director of football operations Plas Presnell. It is unknown at this time if these coaches will be part of the new coaching staff, but will likely at least get interviews with the new coach.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CMU gets back to work

Sun Sports Writer

The past few weeks have felt like an entire football season for members of the Central Michigan football team.
With all the whirlwinds of a coaching change while trying to prepare for the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6 against Troy, the Chippewas needed a break.
The players got the break for the holidays and had a chance to unplug from the rigors of college football, but returned to the grinds on Monday with the bowl game now just a week away.
“I think the guys have been dealing with it very well,” CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour said of the distractions. “This is the second time through this for some of us and the young guys, this is their first time with something like this. The older guys are trying to help the younger guys through this and coach (Steve) Stripling has been doing a great job of preparing the team, so there hasn’t been a lot of change.”
The players will continue practice this week before leaving for Mobile, Ala. on the weekend. With the changes in the coaching staff, the players’ focus has been on winning for the team.
“We know that we are playing for each other,” CMU defensive end Frank Zombo said. “We are having a good time and Coach Stripling has made it a really enjoyable experience for all of us. I think all of the seniors are really trying to soak in these last days that we have together.”
Butch Jones’ departure to Cincinnati was a hard time for many of the players, but there has been closure to the situation as Jones returned to Mt. Pleasant before the holidays and spoke with the team.
“He is obviously a Chippewa and he cares a lot about Central Michigan,” LeFevour said of Jones. “But, when someone is trying to take care of your family for many years and offering you a substantial raise, you have to at least look at it and see if it is what is best for your wife and kids. You can’t blame him and he will always be a Chippewa to me.”
Jones also hosted a number of the players to his home for dinner before leaving once and for all for Cincinnati.
“Coach Jones is a class act,” Zombo said. “He (left CMU) the best way he possibly could. We understand that he has to take care of his family. I really do believe that he does love us and he is still going to be there for us. We all have his new number and we are all going to stay in touch.”
The lingering cloud of an uncertain future with a new head coach is not affecting the seniors on the team, but LeFevour and Zombo understand what the young players are feeling right now as they went through the same emotions three years ago.
“The guys just need to trust Mr. (Dave) Heeke,” LeFevour said. “He did a great job last time in picking a head coach and I guarantee there are some very qualified candidates out there for this job. The guys just need to trust in him and know he will do a good job for them.”
While they can’t control the coaching hire, the seniors are doing all they can to make sure the young guys are staying focused on the GMAC Bowl and not thinking about anything else.
“The young guys are probably feeling like it’s nearly the last day of school and they have the rest of the summer off,” LeFevour said. “But this game is important to them and important to us older guys too. This is a chance to leave our legacy and everyone needs to make the most of every opportunity because you never know when your last one is going to come.”
LeFevour will be playing in his final game with CMU next Wednesday, but the senior is doing all he can to enjoy each moment until the game is over.
“I am not looking to get this game over with. I am looking forward to playing it, but not looking forward to being done here,” LeFevour said of his last game. “This year has been the most fun I have had here in my career. I love these guys. I love these seniors. I love this place. I am trying to cherish every day that I have left.”

*Also on a side note Antonio Brown filed his papers to be evaluated for the NFL Draft weeks ago. Once he hears back on where he is being gauged to be drafted, it will give him a better idea on whether he should leave CMU early.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Jones trying to make things right

I know many CMU football fans and family members of players are disappointed in Butch Jones for how his Cincinnati departure went down.

Jones will be the first to admit that he wanted to speak to the players before the press conference, but sometimes things don't work out as you would hope.

In an effort to bring closure to his time with the Chippewas, Jones was back at the IAC on Thursday and spoke with the team and left his office doors open for any players, supporters, and friends to air their grievances with him or just wish him well on his way.

Jones will also be hosting a dinner at his Mt. Pleasant home for the seniors on the football team along with the members of the "leadership committee" on Friday night.

I don't personally like how things went down as much as anyone, but you have to give Jones credit for walking back into the lion's den and facing everyone man-to-man. When Brian Kelly left in the middle of the night, there was no return trip and no more mentions of CMU. Jones at least stepped up and made a final appearance for those that supported him and believed in him.

It may not make things right with everyone, but it at least provides some needed closure to the situation so those at CMU can move on.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butch Jones speaks on departure

Sun Sports Writer

Central Michigan football fans had a tough time seeing Butch Jones leave the Chippewas to become the new head football coach at Cincinnati.
Jones also had a tough time making that decision.
The former Chippewa coach spoke with The Morning Sun on Thursday and spoke about his move to Cincinnati.
“It was an extremely difficult decision for me,” Jones said. “Mt. Pleasant has been by home for the last three years and was my home for another six year prior to that. My kids grew up in that city and my family and I have loved every minute there. It was a very tough decision for me and I hope that people know that when I spoke about the passion I had for Central Michigan and the community, that I spoke from the heart. I think everyone has career aspirations, and I am no different. I hope that people can step back and take the emotion out of (the decision) and know that I made a decision that is best for my family.”
Jones was grateful for the CMU administration for giving him the opportunity to begin his head coaching career.
“I am forever indebted to Dave Heeke and the people in the CMU athletic department,” Jones said. “Dave put his neck out on the line for me and hired me three years ago when maybe it wasn’t the most popular decision. I considered a lot of people there my friends and Dave is certainly one of them. He wasn’t just my boss, he was a dear friend.”
One of the issues being brought up in the coaching transition was Jones’ communication with the Chippewa players prior to his departure. Jones did speak with the players face-to-face on Thursday night to attempt to put closure to the situation.
“I tried to connect with as many individuals as possible and I will be talking with them in person soon,” Jones said prior to speaking with the players. “I want them to know that I love and care for them. You know, three quarters of them texted me and called me to congratulate me and that meant a lot. We built a relationship with each other and those relationships will be with me forever. Obviously I owe a lot to them for believing in me and playing with the passion and heart that they did. We really were a football family.”
Jones now takes over for Brian Kelly at Cincinnati and takes over a program that has won two-straight Big East Championships. Jones knows that there will be a lot of expectations put on him to succeed.
“I look at this as a great opportunity to compete in a great recruiting area like Cincinnati,” Jones said. “I have a lot of ties in the Midwest and it is a chance to compete in the Big East. This is a program with a lot of recent success and it is a similar situation to what I face coming to CMU. We did it once and we will do it again. We are going to build a program at Cincinnati that can sustain success.”
Jones didn’t offer a recommendation on the next CMU coach, but he did give his support to the remaining staff and added that he feels good knowing that he left the Chippewas in good shape.
“I feel like I can walk out with my head high because I know what great shape the program is in right now,” Jones said. “There are great character athletes at CMU, great facilities, great academic standards, and everything associated with a championship program. In terms of the next coach, there are a lot of great coaches on the staff now and there are a number of guys who I am sure will jump at the chance to coach the program. Whoever Dave chooses, I will support and I will be their biggest fan. I only want to see CMU continue to succeed.”

(On a side note, I know some names are getting thrown out for the new coaching position, but CMU has not contacted anyone about an interview or about the job. They have gotten a lot of inquiries, but don't expect interviews to begin any time this week)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Conversation with Dave Heeke

It felt like deja vu on Wednesday as Butch Jones donned the emblem of Cincinnati University while being introduced as its new head football coach.
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.

Stripling named interim coach

Defensive Associate Head Coach and Defensive Ends Coach Steve Stripling will take over head coaching duties on an interim basis for the CMU football program following the departure of Butch Jones to the University of Cincinnati.

Stripling was announced as the interim coach by CMU on Wednesday evening and he will coach the Chippewas in the bowl game. No word on what Stripling’s role will be following the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6.

Stripling is in his first season as a coach with the Chippewas, but Stripling has a lot of coaching experience, 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 four years as an assistant at Minnesota (1997-2000) and 13 years as an assistant at Indiana (1984-96). Stripling was the defensive coordinator for the Hoosiers in 1996.

Stripling also has spent time as an assistant at Northern Illinois (1980-83) and at Louisville (2001-02).

Stripling graduated from Colorado in 1976 after playing four seasons with the Buffaloes. He had a short stint with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL before taking on a graduate assistant role with the Buffaloes.

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No CMU Presser Today

Central Michigan will not be holding a press conference today to address the Butch Jones situation. Dave Heeke will speak to the media later tonight on a one-on-one basis to update fans on the situation.

Cincinnati will be having a press conference at approximately 5 p.m. to introduce Jones as their next head coach.

I do know that Jones has not yet spoken with the team face-to-face to let them know he is the new Bearcats coach.

I will continue to update information as it comes and provide the latest from what Heeke says.

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Jones to Cincy a done deal

Butch Jones and Cincinnati have finalized the contract to officially make him the new head football coach of the Bearcats. I was able to confirm the deal being finalized with sources on location in Cincinnati moments ago.

The Associated Press' Larry Lage has reported that the deal is 5-year agreement. The salary has not been released but is expected to pay over $1 million.

An announcement is expected later on today (Wednesday) and Central Michigan is also expected to hold a press conference today to discuss their future plans for the coaching vacancy and who will run the program up to the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6.

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CMU Confirms Negotiations

CMU just released the following statement:

Central Michigan University can confirm that Butch Jones is in contract negotiations with Cincinnati. All further inquiries should be directed to Cincinnati at this time.

As of this morning, the deal between Jones and Cincinnati is still not finalized, but is expected to get done today. I will update information as I get it.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cincinnati negotiating with Jones

Sources close to the Cincinnati and Central Michigan football programs have told the Morning Sun that Cincinnati has chosen Butch Jones to be its next head football coach.

Parties from both sides entered into contract negotiations on Tuesday night and the deal is expected to be finalized by Wednesday morning. As of now, the change is not official.

Butch Jones was not available for comment on the situation and Central Michigan Athletics Director Dave Heeke told the Morning Sun “I would prefer that Cincinnati be the ones to make any comments on the matter.”

If Jones reaches a deal, he will replace Brian Kelly, who left the Bearcats following a 12-0 season in 2009 and a Big East Championship. Kelly left Cincinnati to take over the head coaching position at Notre Dame.

Jones replaced Kelly at Central Michigan after Kelly left CMU to become head coach of the Bearcats following the 2006 season, where he won a Mid-American Conference title.

In three years as head coach, Jones has won two MAC titles and just recently led the Chippewas into the top 25 rankings for the first time in school history.

The Morning Sun will have more information as it becomes available.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Everyone needs to cool out

Butch Jones has not reached a deal with Marshall and is not on a place to accept the job. will post anything. They were the FIRST TO REPORT Brian Kelly not becoming the next Notre Dame coach and Jim Harbaugh becoming the next Kansas coach. How did that turn out? Check out this link to know all you need to about them:

Meanwhile, Jones is heading to the GMAC Bowl Press Conference tomorrow with Dave Heeke, so don't look for any news to happen tomorrow.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marshall and Cincinnati Updates

CMU head coach Butch Jones interviewed with Marshall on Friday, getting a tour of the football facilities and speaking with Marshall Athletics Director Mike Hamrick. My sources in Marshall continue to stress to me that Jones is their guy and the Herd are continuing to work on a package to get him as their next head coach, certainly exceeding what the Chippewas can offer him in terms of overall pay.

Despite the lengthy meeting, no decisions or agreements were reached as Cincinnati is also now a player in the Butch Jones sweepstakes with Brian Kelly leaving for Notre Dame. Expect the Bearcats to have an interview with Jones sometime early this week.

The players return to practice on Wednesday in preparation for the GMAC Bowl against Troy. There hasn't been any meeting schedule where Jones will announce his future to the players as others have reported.

Kansas has decided to go with Buffalo coach Turner Gill as the new coach of the Jayhawk football team. Gill has experience in the Big 12, which may have given him the edge over Jones in the hire.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Reports: Jones interviewing with Marshall tonight

The Huntington-Herald Dispatch and WSAZ-TV out of Huntington are reporting that Central Michigan football coach Butch Jones is meeting with Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick tonight.

Another thing to consider is that Marshall president Stephen Kopp was a former dean at Central Michigan University in the mid-to-late 90's, so there is a tie with him to the Chippewas.

My sources in Kansas tell me Jones is cooling off with the Jayhawks as they target Jim Harbaugh of Stanford.

Cincinnati could also be someone to look out for, as Temple's Al Golden, East Carolina's Skip Holtz, and Houston's Kevin Sumlin have also been reported as candidates for the opening with the Bearcats.

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Azzanni heads to Florda

It may not be on the same scale as a head coach leaving, but when opportunity knocked for Zach Azzanni, he had no choice but to answer.

With the Florida Gators losing a number of assistant coaches this week as Louisville hired Defensive Coordinator Charlie Strong to be their head coach, new openings became available for the Gators, including wide receivers coach.

Having worked with Azzanni in the past at Bowling Green, Florida coach Urban Meyer turned to his old cohort to offer the CMU wide receivers coach the same position with the Gators. Azzanni obviously had to accept.

"This is just a great opportunity for me to work with Coach Meyer and I was molded early in my coaching career by him and got a lot of my style from him," Azzanni said Friday.

Azzanni hates to leave Central Michigan and Mt. Pleasant due to all the history he has with the Chippewas, being a former player and now former coach with the university.

"It was an extremely emotional and tough decision for me," Azzanni said. "I came to school here, I asked my wife to marry me on the 50-yard line of Kelly/Shorts Stadium, my daughters were born here. It will be very tough to be away from this place, but all good things come to and end."

Azzanni urged the receivers he worked with at CMU to continue to do what he has taught them and continue to work hard to keep the Chippewas a winning program.

"This is a tremendous group of players here and it is a group that can obviously win a lot of games," Azzanni said. "Those guys just need to keep the same formula and keep working on the little things. They truly expected to win every game and that is the attitude they need to keep."

Now moving to the big state of Florida, Azzanni says that his time at CMU was perfect training to prepare for being part of the Gators' program.

"We never looked at ourselves as a small program at CMU, we always had that mentality that we were a big-time program," Azzanni said. "My time here definitely helped groom me for my next challenge and I know the pressures that come with this challenge and I am ready for them."

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jones not out of the Marshall running

This morning I saw that ESPN's Mark Schlabach posted the following on his twitter page: Who is Marshall going to hire? Central Michigan's Butch Jones apparently pulled out of the search. Former WVU asst.

I can confirm from sources at CMU and at Marshall that this is not true. Again, BUTCH JONES HASN'T PULLED HIS NAME OUT OF THE RUNNING AT MARSHALL. The buzz may have died down due to there not being an interview happening yet this week, but my sources tell me (and they are reliable) that Jones has not pulled his name out.

I can also confirm that an interview with Marshall HAS NOT been scheduled as of yet. Some media outlets are saying one is set for tomorrow, but sources close to the situation in Marshall have confirmed that is not the case, but a potential meeting is being worked on. Jones did appear on his weekly radio show, The Front Row Seat on Thursday night where he spoke about winning the MAC Championship and breaking into the top 25 rankings.

Chuck Landon of the Huntington Herald Dispatch reported that Marshall Athletics Director, Mike Hamrick, is interviewing Florida State assistant Rick Trickett Friday in Charlotte, N.C. about the opening, but Trickett is not considered to be a front-runner for the job according to sources in Marshall.

Kansas is also picking up steam as an interview has been scheduled with Jones over the new few days according to sources close to the situation in Kansas. The Jayhawks may be the team to really fear for CMU fans as Kansas is a BCS conference team and can clearly offer more money than CMU can possibly put together. Jones is not listed as the clear-favorite, but is one of the top candidates among others like Buffalo's Turner Gill.

With Brian Kelly taking the Notre Dame job Thursday, Cincinnati will now likely be on the radar as well as the Bearcats may very well come calling to Mt. Pleasant once again.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kansas interested in Butch Jones

I haven’t posted a blog in a long time and I apologize for that, but with the coaching situation a daily battle, I figured I would throw out some news on the latest team entering the mix, Kansas.

Sources I have spoken with familiar with the coaching search in Kansas have informed me that Jones is a candidate the team intends on speaking with. While they would not say he is the Jayhawks’ top choice, they did say he was definitely in the mix.

Kansas has already reached out to Buffalo coach Turner Gill and is expected to also contact Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, and Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.

The coaching position is open because of the departure of 8-year coach Mark Mangino, who resigned after a 5-7 season and rumors of physical and mental abuse of his players.

Mangino made roughly $2.3 million a year with incentives, but the new head coach likely won’t be in that same ballpark.

Clearly this is a job that Jones wouldn’t be able to turn down if offered. The money will be much bigger, he will be in a big-time BCS conference, and the facilities and money that come into the program will be much greater that what CMU can offer.

One of the big issues in Kansas right now is their attempts to make additions to Memorial Stadium. Fundraising hasn’t brought in enough money to make the upgrades that Kansas is looking to make, so the athletic department may be trying to make a big splash with the coaching hire in hopes to drive up fundraising to complete the project.

Is Jones a big splash hire? Likely not.

But, I do think Kansas has to be more realistic in their coaching search as getting a big name like Harbaugh doesn’t seem to be likely either.

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