Stepping Stone U?: A look at the comings and goings of UC football coaches

CINCINNATI - That's how it seems to go with UC football fans: Just when they are on a winning streak and have something to celebrate, the other shoe drops and cold, hard reality slaps them in the face.

Along with the good news Sunday that the Bearcats would face off against Duke University in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27, came the distressing news for UC fans that head coach Butch Jones was being courted for the vacant head football coach jobs at the University of Colorado and Purdue University.

The news that Jones might leave the helm was a blow to many fans, which were just recovering from coach Brian Kelly's sudden departure in 2009.

As the following week drew longer and rumors swirled, a small piece of hope came with Purdue announcing a different hire and Jones removing himself from CU's candidacy, and Bearcat fans saw a sliver of hope that maybe this one wouldn't be like the others.

But with Friday's announcement that Jones had taken us all for a ride, similar in the way that Brian Kelly did (though not nearly as boldfaced of a turn), there was that sinking feeling again.

Jones' departure would be the third time in the past 10 years that a UC head football coach has left for a bigger football program and more cash.

Under Jones' guidance, UC has gone 27-12 in the past three seasons, won back-to-back Big East Conference titles, won the Liberty Bowl in 2011 and reached as high as No. 3 in all three major polls -- Associated Press, USA Today and the Bowl Championship Series.

Jones was named head coach at UC in December 2009. He replaced Kelly, who left to become head coach at Notre Dame (who now plays for a National Championship).

It was the second time that Jones replaced Kelly in a coaching job, having previously done it at Central Michigan.

Jones wasted no time taking charge, leading the Bearcats to records of 4-8 in 2010 and 10-3 in 2011 -- including a Big East championship and a Liberty Bowl victory over Vanderbilt. Jones was also named Big East Coach of the Year.

Last year, Cincinnati was the only program to win both its conference championship as well as the league's team academic award.

Jones built upon Kelly's impressive record at UC.

Kelly was named Cincinnati's head coach in December 2006, following the departure of Mark Dantonio. In Kelly's first full season, the Bearcats had its second ever 10-win season and a Top 25 ranking.

In December 2007, Kelly was named Big East Coach of the Year. The following year, he led the Bearcats to its first Big East title

Kelly finished his tenure at Cincinnati with a 34–6 record. Overall, he was a head coach for three seasons, compiling an 18–17 record.

Together, Jones and Kelly's teams won four Big East championships in five years.

Kelly's predecessor, Dantonio, was named head coach at Cincinnati in December 2003. Previously, he worked on the coaching staff at Ohio State University, where Dantonio was credited with helping build one of the nation's top defenses.

He became the first head coach in 23 years to lead the school to a winning season in his first season at UC.

During Dantonio's tenure, he led the Bearcats to a bowl game victory and directed the team's transition into the Big East Conference. As head coach, Dantonio had 15 players earn all-conference honors and 25 received conference academic recognition.




Ultimately, Dantonio left UC to become the head coach at Michigan State in November 2006.



Dantonio had replaced Rick Minter at UC. Minter was fired in December 2003, after coaching the Bearcats for 10 seasons. He had a 53-63-1 record with six bowl appearances during that period but managed only a 5-7 record his last season amid a growing chorus of criticism for failing to draw more fans and build a national profile.

After his firing, he became the defensive coordinator at University of South Carolina.

Begun in 1885, UC's football program is one of the nation's oldest among NCAA Division I institutions. Only Rutgers, Michigan, Navy and Minnesota predate the Bearcats.

Since 1924, the Bearcats have played in Nippert Stadium. Opened in 1924, the facility is named for James G. "Jimmy" Nippert, the grandson of Procter & Gamble co-founder James Gamble. Gamble donated $250,000 to complete the stadium in his grandson's memory; Jimmy had been killed by a spike injury while playing in a UC game.

Past coaches during UC's long history include Frank Cavanaugh, a College Football Hall of Fame coach, who began his 24-season career at UC; and Sid Gillman, a member of the College and NFL halls of fame.

In total, more than 100 UC players have advanced into the professional ranks with nine earning Super Bowl wins, 40 earning all-America honors and 11 getting academic All-America recognition.

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