On December 6, University of Cincinnati head football coach Butch Jones rejected an offer from the University of Colorado and reportedly signed a five-year deal with the University of Tennessee that is worth roughly $13.5 million. It is a classic example of the coaching carousel that exists in college athletics. Coaches have success at smaller schools and as assistant coaches until they can work their way up to head coaching positions at bigger programs. Both Butch Jones and Brian Kelly, Jones’ predecessor who is now at Notre Dame, came to UC from Central Michigan University.
However, Cincinnati’s new coach, Tommy Tuberville, who previously coached for three seasons at Texas Tech University, downgraded to join the Bearcats. The Big East is a dying conference. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville are on their way out of the conference to join the ACC. Rutgers is leaving for the Big Ten. Four of the top five teams in conference will be gone within the next few years.
Boise State, San Diego State, Central Florida, Memphis, Houston, SMU, and Navy are set to join the conference in the near future, which will turn the Big East into the second Conference USA. The conference is becoming a hodgepodge of teams that are unable to join the likes of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or SEC. The foundation of the Big East is becoming unstable as the pillars (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and West Virginia) are leaving or have already left. When the dust from conference realignment has settled, the Big East may no longer exist and it is not the conference of which the University of Cincinnati wants to be a member as it makes its plans for the future.
Tuberville’s decision to take over a 9-3 Cincinnati team does not make sense. Texas Tech is in a good position for the future. The Big 12 is thriving with talented and powerful athletic programs such as Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Baylor. Even though the Red Raiders finished seventh in the conference this season, they finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and will face Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 28. Being mediocre in one of the best conferences carries much more weight than having eight, nine, and 10 win seasons when UC’s toughest competition in the conference will be Boise State and Navy. Plus, Tuberville is moving halfway across the country to a region with which he is not nearly as familiar. In his coaching career, Tommy Tuberville has always lived in the South. While at Arkansas State, Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Texas Tech, his recruiting was focused in a completely different region of the country.
Tuberville brings a 130-77 record, 7-3 record in bowl games, an SEC Championship, and lots of questions to Cincinnati. Unless he knows something about the future of the Cincinnati Bearcats or the Big East that has not yet been announced, his choice to leave Lubbock, Tex. is highly questionable.