Tommy Tuberville wasn’t expecting a call from an old acquaintance. A few hours later, he was headed north for a new job.
Tuberville left Texas Tech to become Cincinnati’s football coach Saturday, moving away from a Big 12 school to one that has an uncertain future with conference realignment. He left the Red Raiders after three years to coach at a school where his recent predecessors have lasted no longer.
Two hours after Cincinnati’s 11th-ranked basketball team won its ninth game of the season, the Bearcats hauled out their Big East trophies and held a pep rally for the new coach at midcourt.
His quick hiring ended a whirlwind week in Cincinnati, which had won a share of its fourth Big East title in the past five years a week earlier. Coach Butch Jones interviewed at Purdue and Colorado before accepting the job at Tennessee on Friday morning.
Athletics director Whit Babcock had Tuberville – whom he worked with for three years at Auburn – at the top of his list of candidates. Working on two hours of sleep, Babcock called Tuberville on Saturday morning to see if he was interested.
Jones confident he can thrive in SEC with Tennessee
When his lack of Southeastern Conference experience came up at his introductory news conference Friday, Tennessee coach Butch Jones wasted no time responding.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that Nick Saban and Les Miles had zero experience when they came into the league,” Jones said.
Jones’ chances of approaching their success will depend on how well he adapts to the conference that has won the last six national championships.
During his last two stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, Jones went 50-27. The SEC offers a much tougher test than the Mid-American Conference or Big East.
Jones relishes the opportunity.
“If you want to be best, you want to compete in the best,” Jones said. “Obviously the SEC is the best football conference in the country.”
Taggart leaves Western Kentucky for South Florida
Willie Taggart is taking over as South Florida’s coach after establishing himself as one of the nation’s top young prospects by turning around a losing program at Western Kentucky.
Taggart grew up in the Tampa Bay area before heading off to play and later coach at Western Kentucky. He replaces Skip Holtz.