I had a chance to catch up with Cincinnati coach Butch Jones and hit a wide variety of topics. In Part I, he reflects on 2011. Stay tuned for Part II, in which he looks to the future.
What was your favorite moment of the season?
BJ: There's so many that I don't think there's one particular moment but just the journey and obviously very happy for our players, especially our seniors. Everything we talk about in our program is about how you leave your legacy overall. When I said it at Big East media days at that point in time, I liked the way we managed our business and conducted ourselves. To win a Big East championship and also have the academic achievement award, to represent our conference and win the Liberty Bowl was very fitting, and I think when you throw in the adversity and the resilience our football team had to show. It's one of the most under-talked stories in college football -- Zach Collaros coming back for that game.
I’ve said it before -- we live in SportsCenter society. The only thing people see are the highlights. They don't see the trials and tribulations, the amount of effort Zach put in to the rehab process, eight, nine hours a day. In his mind, he was going to play in that football game. So I just think that obviously 10-win seasons are extremely difficult in the world of college football, so there's so many things and it provides us with great momentum. But it also defines our foundation of what it means to be a senior in our program. They've laid the foundation, and the expectations of what we expect from our future seniors.
Is this the best senior class in the history of Cincinnati football?
BJ: We’ve played football here, this is our 124th year. We’ve had five 10-win seasons and these seniors have been a part of three of those. I think also the exciting thing for us, for a lot of them it was their first bowl victory in their careers, the first bowl victory versus a BCS opponent. They finished the way we want our teams to finish. That's a tribute to them.
There is something to be said about the intangible of leadership. How important is that to a winning team?
BJ: We won this year on intangibles, on character, work ethic. Leadership is something that develops daily. It doesn't develop overnight. We have a peer intervention program, we teach leadership, we define leadership and we've already started that process. The greatest thing is the younger players in our program had the benefit of witnessing the leadership of this senior class. The younger players saw that each and every day, and so it's something that we spend more time on -- leadership sometimes and the intangibles -- than actual X and Os, because everything is about the team. We do lose a lot of quality individuals, but I also think we have a number of quality individuals in our program.
You mentioned before the contributions of the senior class. Cincinnati has won at least a share of a Big East title in three of the past four years, yet still does not get much respect nationally. How do you change that?
BJ: Great programs are marked by their level of consistency, so being consistent in everything we do on and off the field. We have very high expectations for ourselves, so just continuing to win on and off the field and playing with a level of consistency with everything that we do.