January 28, 2013

The Butch Jones Coaches Award

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The Butch Jones Coaches Award
is presented to a student-athlete who serves as an extra "coach" on the field and is named after former Bulldog football player and assistant coach Butch Jones, who continues today on a collegiate football journey that began in Big Rapids and has landed him on one of college football's biggest stages at Tennessee and at the helm of the longtime Southeastern Conference (SEC) institution.

Jones, a former Bulldog player and assistant coach, became the 24th head coach of the Volunteers in December, 2012.  He owns a 50-27 (.649) mark in six seasons as a head coach and joined UT from the from the University of Cincinnati, where he finished with a 23-14 record (.657) in three seasons with the Bearcats.

A two-year (1986-87) letterwinner on the Ferris State football team, Jones returned to Ferris State in 1995 as the Bulldogs' running backs coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1996. He spent three seasons as a Bulldog assistant from 1995-97, including the final two as offensive coordinator.  Jones also continued to coach the quarterbacks and wide receivers along with his offensive coordinator duties. Ferris State, while leading the Midwestern Intercollegiate Football Conference (MIFC) in total offense and scoring offense, won a second consecutive conference championship in 1996 and advanced to the NCAA Division II Quarterfinals.

A student football coach at FSU from 1988-89, Jones arrived at Ferris State in 1986 as a walk-on but injuries forced him to quit playing after just two seasons.

Prior to taking over at Cincinnati, Jones was also the head coach for three years at Central Michigan (27-13, .675, from 2007-09). He has won at least eight games in five of his six years as a head coach, including three seasons of nine-plus wins in the last four years (2009, 2011, 2012). Jones also has won 10 or more games twice, finishing 11-2 at Central Michigan in 2009 and posting a 10-3 record and top-25 final national ranking with Cincinnati in 2011.

Jones has won four conference championships in six seasons as a head coach, including the Big East title in 2011 and 2012 with Cincinnati and the 2007 and 2009 Mid-American Conference titles at Central Michigan. He earned Big East Conference Coach of the Year honors from the league after his 10-win season with the Bearcats in 2011 and earned the same honor from CBSSports.com this season.

In 2012, Cincinnati finished the regular season 9-3 with a 5-2 record in the Big East to share the conference crown. Jones's defense ranked 12th in the nation in scoring defense at 17.2 and 12th in red zone defense (70.6%), and Cincinnati has ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense in each of the last two seasons.

A staple of Jones's program has been success in the classroom, and the 2011 Bearcats were also the only program nationally to win both its conference championship and its league top academic honor, earning the 2010-11 Big East Team Academic Excellence Award. Also that same year, JK Schaffer of the Bearcats named the 2011 American Eagle Outfitters Big East Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the second consecutive UC player to earn that honor (John Goebel in 2010).

In five of his six seasons as a head coach, Jones's teams have earned bowl appearances. He is 34-12 (.739) in conference play and 32-1 in games in which his teams have held a lead either at halftime or entering the fourth quarter.

The 2011 Cincinnati team that finished 10-3 improved six wins from the 4-8 finish in 2010, making the Bearcats the most improved team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference in the nation that season. Cincinnati also recorded its first bowl win over a BCS opponent, defeating Vanderbilt 31-24 in the Liberty Bowl.

The 2011 Cincinnati team led the nation in tackles for loss (8.62 per game) while ranking second in sacks (3.46), sixth in rushing defense (96.2), and 20th in scoring defense (20.31). The Bearcats also led the Big East and ranked ninth in turnover margin (0.92) while the team's 33 turnovers forced were tied for fourth nationally. Offensively, the Bearcats ranked second in the conference in rushing yardage (178.5 ypg) while scoring an average of 33.3 points per game.

Over the last two seasons, opponents scored on offensive possessions at a 25.7% rate against Cincinnati, ranking the Bearcats 15th nationally during that time frame. Additionally, opposing offenses scored touchdowns against Cincinnati on only 14.5% of possessions, placing UC sixth in the nation.

Cincinnati has placed eight players on the All-Big East Conference team in each of the last two seasons, including Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe in 2011. Pead closed out his UC career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, the first time a Bearcat back has accomplished that in almost 25 years.

Before accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati, Jones's 27-13 record at Central Michigan included a pair of MAC titles, three consecutive bowl appearances, and a No. 23 postseason ranking in 2009. The Chippewas were 22-3 in the MAC during his tenure, and Jones was the only head coach to lead the program to consecutive bowl games as well as the first in the history of the MAC to do so in his first three seasons.

Jones took over as CMU's head coach prior to the 2007 campaign after having spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at the NCAA-I level. The Saugatuck, Mich. native and a former offensive coordinator at CMU, Jones returned to Central Michigan after spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons as an assistant coach at West Virginia University under former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez.  

Jones was the wide receivers coach at West Virginia from 2005-06 before he moved to Central Michigan, during which time the Mountaineers went a combined 22-3 and the 2005 squad defeated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. He served as an assistant at Central Michigan for seven years from 1998-2004, as offensive coordinator (2002-04), running backs coach (1999-2004), and as tight ends coach (1998). Jones was also the offensive coordinator at Ferris State from 1995-97 and at Wilkes University from 1992-95 and also served as an assistant at Rutgers from 1990-92.

Jones is a 1990 graduate of Ferris State. His original entry into the coaching ranks was as an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1987-89.

Jones and his wife, Barb, are the parents of three sons: Alex, Adam, and Andrew.

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