Cincinnati looking for Butch Jones' replacement


Cincinnati looking for Butch Jones' replacement

CINCINNATI (AP) The University of Cincinnati ended a whirlwind week on Friday looking for Butch Jones' replacement as football coach while the team started preparing for its bowl game.

The Bearcats have experience at doing both simultaneously.

Jones resigned to take the job at Tennessee early Friday morning, as the players met to start preparing to face Duke in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27. Cincinnati (9-3) shared the Big East title for the fourth time in the past five years.

The team plans to start practicing for the bowl game on Saturday, trying to get past several days of uncertainty and change. It was unclear how many members of the current coaching staff would stay in Cincinnati to prepare for the bowl.

``This industry can be crazy at times,'' athletic director Whit Babcock said.

The last three Bearcats coaches have used the job as a stepping stone to bigger things, each leaving after three seasons. Mark Dantonio guided Cincinnati into the Big East before leaving for Michigan State. Brian Kelly led Cincinnati to back-to-back titles and berths in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl before heading to Notre Dame.

Kelly's departure for his dream job left his players and fans angry in 2009. The team was unbeaten and, suddenly, in turmoil heading into its first Sugar Bowl, where it got drubbed by Florida 51-24.

Jones replaced Kelly and, after a disappointing four-win season, won shares of the last two Big East titles. He went 23-14 overall at Cincinnati. Like his predecessor, he leaves with his team starting to prepare for a bowl game.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling, who joined Jones' staff in 2010, was chosen interim coach on Friday.

Cincinnati's football program was on hold for a week while Jones weighed his options. Babcock said Jones had trouble making a decision, and ultimately the athletic director forced him to make one by Friday morning.

``All I said was we don't have a lot of time, you know it and I know it,'' Babcock said. ``I asked him to set a team meeting less in than 24 hours, and they deserved an answer and we deserved an answer whether he was going to be our head coach or not.''

Babcock said he approached Jones about an improved contract and facility improvements during the season, and the coach was delighted. Five BCS schools contacted Jones about job openings as the season wound down, and he told Babcock that he wanted to interview with Purdue and Colorado.

Jones interviewed with Purdue last Sunday and quickly decided against accepting the job. He went to Colorado the following day and was more intrigued, Babcock said.

``This room would be shocked by all the things they threw at him,'' he said. ``It was an impressive list.''

Babcock said he was bothered by the pictures of Jones being interviewed at other schools and the speculation about whether he was leaving, which built during the week. Babcock said the coach can make quick decisions during a game, but has a more difficult time with other issues.

``When it comes to other decisions, it will take him a while,'' he said. ``He'll sway this way, he'll sway that way.''

Babcock told Jones on Wednesday night that he needed a decision. The next morning, Jones turned down the Colorado job, saying he would stay at Cincinnati. A short time later, Tennessee contacted the university about interviewing him for its open job, which Louisville coach Charlie Strong had turned down.

That's when Babcock set the deadline for a final decision.

``No more public embarrassments, no more public interviews. In less than 24 hours, I needed to know if he was going to take it,'' Babcock said. ``He knew and I knew it wasn't fair for our fans, for our players to drag it out.''

A 7:30 a.m. meeting was scheduled with players, even though Jones was still unsure what he would tell them. He informed Babcock at 5:15 a.m. on Friday that he was taking Tennessee's offer.

Jones' contract with Cincinnati includes a $1.4 million buyout. The deal was extended through 2017 after the Bearcats got a share of the Big East title last year.

The Bearcats have trouble keeping coaches for more than three years. They're looking for their next one with a lot of uncertainty over the school's future.

The university has been disappointed by the Big East's massive exodus and lobbied to get into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, rival Louisville got accepted by the ACC, leaving Cincinnati hoping it could make the move in a few more years.

There's also a lot of work to do on the athletic facilities.

During Jones' tenure, Cincinnati expanded its football facility, adding a practice field with a protective bubble for bad weather. The school is trying to figure out how to upgrade 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium, which is the second-oldest playing site in the nation for a college team behind Penn's Franklin Field. Nippert has been in use since 1901.

Despite their Big East success, the Bearcats have played in front of disappointing crowds at Nippert. They drew only 21,171 fans on senior night - their smallest crowd of the season - for a 27-10 win over South Florida this year.

The Bearcats' last two coaches came from the Mid-American Conference. Kelly coached at Central Michigan and was succeeded there by Jones, who then replaced him in Cincinnati. While Jones interviewed and weighed his options this week, two high-profile MAC coaches moved on to bigger schools.

Kent State's Darrell Hazell took the Purdue job after Jones decided he wasn't interested in it. Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren went to North Carolina State.


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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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