Just like last year Butch Jones is hearing his name mentioned as a possible candidate for other college coaching jobs.
And just like last year Coach Jones is saying all the right things for those fans hoping to keep the successful coach in town longer.
"You know you hear things out there. I think that is more a compliment to our football program," said Butch Jones. "I think that is a compliment to our players. I think that is a compliment to our coaching staff. Like I said we are 17-6 (in last two years). This coaching staff has won three championships at different levels. And we graduate our players and I think we do things right."
Unsatisfied Kentucky searching for a winner
Though Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart has still not fielded any questions regarding the firing of Joker Phillips, the ousted coach "answered questions for fifteen minutes after football practice with dignity and grace," according to CatsIllustrated.com Staff Writer Ben Jones.
Still the impetus in college athletics is on winning first, dignity second. Kentucky will finish with no more than 3 wins this season. Worse Coach Phillips is still seeking his fifth career SEC win nearing the conclusion his third and final season.
As Coach Jones attempts, quite successfully, to instill both winning and dignity into the Cincinati Bearcat program and he naturally draws more external interest from floundering football programs like Purdue and Kentucky.
Potential candidates for the Kentucky job include San Diego Head Coach Ron Caragher, Louisiana Tech Head Coach Sonny Dykes, Cincinnati Head Coach Butch Jones, and San Jose State Head Coach Mike McIntyre.
"Initially there was a report that the 247 site that covers the University of Cincinnati had posted on its message board that Coach Jones had an offer from University of Kentucky," said Ben Jones. "What we found out hours later was that it was not a staffer on the site, but a poster and that the staff had refuted it. But then the damage was done."
A nugget of fact or even near-fact winds a wild path through the Twitterverse these days. Calls to University of Kentucky administrators were vague, but moderately suggestive.
"At the end of the day Kentucky has said they have not offered the job to anybody," said Ben Jones. "They are still hoping to hear back from Cincinnati, but Butch Jones could be a candidate."
UK Publisher Brett Dawson called the thought of Butch Jones getting a written offer Sunday two weeks prior to Cincinnati's regular season finale "shocking". It doesn't strike the veteran journalist as plausible that Kentucky would move that quickly for anybody.
For what it is worth Coach Butch Jones claims such calls and contact did not happen.
"No," said Coach Jones Tuesday afternoon. "Everyone wants to speculate and that is great and throw darts and that is the situation that we are in right now. This is the time of season that happens but again my focus is on finishing strong and taking care of our football team at this particular time."
It is entirely possible that the UK leadership reached out to a representative for Butch Jones, thereby allowing him to express or deny interest without literally talking to him. This degree of seperation conveniently allows him to be both honest and active simultaneously.
Also possible is that UK did not contact him at all and will not contact him. Less likely but this is the charade constantly proffered by college athletic programs insistent upon secrecy during the coaching search process.
Countering the belief that he may be interested in any program other than UC Coach Jones expanded on his singular focus this week.
"But all my focus and energy is on University of Cincinnati," said Coach Jones. "Getting win #8 and obviously a quality bowl game and recruitment and all of that. So I think you know me by now. I think you knew the answer before you asked a question. My car knows home and back and our opponent. And I live in a bunker and just study film and all my effort and energy is on every single player in our football program."