For the time being University of Cincinnati is a program without a football coach.
Butch Jones resigned from the position very early this morning. He held a 7:26 team meeting to discuss his selection, his choice.
That choice will take Coach Jones to University of Tennessee for around $3.0 million each season.
Arriving at this point took anything but a straight path.
According to University of Cincinnati Athletic Director Whit Babcock UC offered Coach Jones a better contract nearly two months ago. It was the result of a meeting between newly-named President Ono and Babcock regarding the future of UC athletics.
They put together a proactive proposal with the intentions of keeping Coach Jones in town after the season.
Following the November 23rd USF-Cincinnati football game Babcock's fears about potentially losing Coach Jones were hinted at.
"We became aware of interest in Butch from no less than five BCS schools," said Babcock. "Please know that I was emphasized the advantages UC had over each of them."
In Babcock's view Coach Jones was forward and honest regarding his search.
"'Whit, for me there are just a couple I need to look at to be sure of my decision," said Babcock of Jones' shared thoughts.
Sunday Butch Jones interviewed with Purdue. He returned to Ohio and immediately called Whit Babcock.
"He told me that he was not going to leave for Purdue," said Babcock. "He felt great peace with that and great gratifcation. His words to me were, 'Whit, I have never felt any better about UC. I am glad I went through that process.'"
Encouraged by the news Babcock was surprised yet understanding when Butch Jones flew out to Colorado the following morning to interview with the University of Colorado.
"When he landed back in Ohio late that night we talked for a long time," said Babcock. "Colorado threw a lot more at him than simply a generous guaranteed salary at him. This room would be shocked of the things they threw at him. It was an impressive list."
The humble yet capable Babcock almost sounded in awe of Colorado's proposal while he dropped to an almost imperceptible register for the final sentence.
"Butch Jones was impressed by it," said Babcock.
When UC dangled the opportunity for even more money to Coach Jones he quickly declined.
"He said that the current offer on the table was very generous and that he did not need or require more," said Babcock. "He stated that some of our other coach's situations, some of the other scholarship funding situations he couldn't walk into this building with a clear conscious if he took more than we were already offering."
Thursday morning Butch Jones informed Whit Babcock that he was not going to Colorado and that he was staying with UC.
At 5:15 AM today he informed Whit Babcock that he was officially taking the Tennessee offer.
Unlike other schools that utilize a 9-10 man search committee it appears UC intends to use a more streamlined approach.
"One will Bob Arkeilpane, Deputy Director of Athletics," said Babcock. "The other person who will help me on a daily basis is Omar Banks, the Senior Associate AD and our CFO. He is a former football player from University of Richmond. Obviously Dr. Ono will be engaged throughout the process."
Babcock likes to deal one-on-one with people and he has a charming even calming influence on every conversation.
"We will use some other industry sources, but I will not comment on that today," said Babcock. "There is no timetable to making the hire, but making the right hire is better than the quickest hire."
The worry about a prolonged hiring process is that opposing coaches are currently, actively attempting to poach Class of 2013 recruits. Worse there will be some coaches looking to encourage a transfer from within the locker room.
Remember Butch Jones accepted a transfer from John Williams (CMU-graduate) this summer. Coaching vacancies breed venues of vultures and recruiters covet instable recruiting classes.
"We will not respond publicly about any candidates, real or rumored" said Babcock.
A single question was raised by a TV reporter, but it was quickly swatted down by Babcock.
"I am not trying to win the press conference with this next hire, but I am more interested in winning games in September through December than I am in winning the press conference," said Babcock. "Sitting head coaches, associate head coaches, and coordinators will be primarily considered."
Two mandatory attributes the next UC coach will have are character and competence.
"Great character doesn't automatically make you a great coach, but nothing destroys a program faster than poor character," said Babcock.
In the coming days Babcock promises to unveil his new plans for Nippert Stadium.
"We are more than a coach," said Babcock. "We are proudly Cincinnati. We have a vision. No one of us is as strong as all of us. It is time to move together and our search will begin immediately."
Whilst the coaching search takes precedent in the minds of the UC fan, Interim Head Coach Steve Stripling and the UC Bearcats have a football game to prepare for.
"Change is inevitable," said Interim Coach Steve Stripling. "It is how you react to change that matters."
Coach Stripling revealed three simple charges to the Bearcat players.
1) We are going to prepare for the the future. We have Finals Week next week.
2) We will hit the field and prepare for the bowl game. Our team accomplished many things, but a tenth victory would really make the 125th edition of UC football an elite group.
3) We are going to have fun. A bowl game is one of the greatest experiences a college athlete can have.
The focus will shift swiftly from mourning to pride. And Cincinnati will probably have a much better showing against Duke than they did against Florida after Brian Kelly left.
If possible Butch Jones left in a mostly dignified manner. Big picture problems persist.
Each time UC football has a strong season are they in danger of losing their leader?
Should coaches be demonized for pursuing wealth, success, and fame?
What is this business that forces/encourages grown men to coerce young men to join their 'family' a few years before completely abandoning them?
"To build these relationships with the players and then possibly move on, it is disheartening to a coach," said the Coach Stripling. "But it is what is happening today."