Sources: Jones to coach Bearcats

Updated: December 16, 2009, 11:20 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Cincinnati is tapping into the Central Michigan pipeline again.

Chippewas coach Butch Jones will be named the next Cincinnati coach, three people briefed on the decision told ESPN.com's Joe Schad on Tuesday. Jones will succeed Brian Kelly, who was hired by Notre Dame after leading the Bearcats to a 12-0 record this season.

Kelly coached Central Michigan from 2004-06 before being hired by Cincinnati.

Jones is 26-13 in three seasons with Central Michigan. He led the Chippewas to an 11-2 mark and a berth in the GMAC Bowl this season.

Central Michigan confirmed Wednesday morning that Jones is in contract negotiations with Cincinnati, but directed further inquiries to Cincinnati. The Associated Press reported that Jones has agreed to a five-year contract.

Bearcats offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn has been preparing Cincinnati for the Allstate Sugar Bowl appearance against Florida. Quinn, who was an assistant at Central Michigan with Kelly, had expressed interest in retaining the top job.

It's unclear whether Jones would coach Cincinnati in its bowl game Jan. 1. The Chippewas will play Troy in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6.

Jones' offensive philosophy -- he kept Kelly's spread offense at Central Michigan -- and his familiarity with the Big East worked in his favor. He was an offensive coordinator at Central Michigan before moving to West Virginia as an assistant to Rich Rodriguez in 2005-06. When Kelly left for Cincinnati, he got his job at Central Michigan.

While Jones was at West Virginia, the Mountaineers had one of the nation's top offenses. That worked in his favor -- next season, Cincinnati will return the nucleus of an offense that is one of the nation's best. Cincinnati is looking to keep its wide-open offensive philosophy.

Quinn coached Central Michigan to a 31-14 win over Middle Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl in 2006 after Kelly left for Cincinnati.

Whoever coaches the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl has a tough challenge. Players were angry and stunned when Kelly told them last Thursday -- after their annual awards banquet -- that he was leaving for Notre Dame. A week earlier, Kelly had told his players he was happy in Cincinnati, and said on a radio show that he was staying.

All the change could lead to a distracted team for the bowl game.

"Our focus is to congratulate them for being 12-0 and getting them ready for the Sugar Bowl," Quinn said earlier Tuesday. "We've circled the wagons.

"Sometimes, it feels like you're drinking water through a fire hose. We have to get their minds off the process of who is the next coach and focus on the task at hand. The message isn't changing. It's just coming from a different voice."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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