Of all the football coaches I have known in my life, Butch Jones is not one of them. So I'm basically going to have to make this up as I go along. That is perhaps the most apt analogy for the long and storied career of one Butchington Stackpacker Jones, college football coach and erstwhile vagabond.
Jones was born in Saugatuck, Michigan (also known as "The Cape Cod of the Midwest") in the icy winter of 1968. Little is known about his early childhood, largely because it occurred in western Michigan, and no one with sense enough to move south was around to chronicle it.
Jones' father moved the family to Wisconsin when baby Butchy was a mere lad of 4. Jones senior determined to make his fortune in the muskrat trade, and mortgaged the family to the hilt in pursuit of his furry dreams. Unfortunately, his ambitions were torpedoed by the Great Muskratpox Outbreak of '72, which dessimated muskrat breeders throughout the upper midwest. The Jones clan thus was forced to move back to the urban squalor of Saugatuck, to squeeze out a living as best they could.
Butch amused himself after school by knocking other kids in the neighborhood ground-grabbing senseless. As rural Michigan pastimes go, that's about as harmless as you can get, as it doesn't involve firearms, agricultural machinery, or muskrats. It so happens that Jones did his concussion farming as a member of the Saugatuck High football team, thus earning the opportunity to play football at Ferris State. I would tell you what position he played and what awards he won, but I have no clue what those are.You try finding historical information on Ferris State football on the internet. It's harder than finding James Davis and C.J. Spiller in a Tommy Bowden game plan.
During his senior season at Ferris Jones interned with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The fact that he hung around a pre-Dungy Bucs team for free is indicative of either his unwavering love for the game of football or his utter stupidity. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and going with the former. I think that he may have also looked at a map during the winter of his junior year (which in Ferris, Michigan is any time from Labor Day to the Fourth of July) and determined exactly how far south he could get without getting knifed by a Haitian "businessman". This last part removed the Dolphins from the equation, and sent Jones to the bucolic thoroughfares of Ybor City and Scientology Central Tampa.
After knocking around with several college football programs that hardly merit a mention,* Butch Jones settled down at Central Michigan. He served as the Chippewas tight ends coach in 1998, wide receivers coach in 1999, and running backs coach in 2000-2004. It was then that the wrambling young man's tender ears picked up the siren song of the DickRod, leading him to the Couch Burning State, where he coached wide receivers at the University of West Virginia.
If playing quarterback for Hal Mumme is like being Amy Winehouse's cocaine procurement specialist, coaching wide receivers at West Virginia is like being Lindsey Lohan's Director of Church & Synogogue Appearances. I assume the job consists primarily of screaming over and over again "Get out of Pat White/Steve Slaton/Noel Devine's way you ham-handed blocking dummy!!!!"**
Jones ham-handed blocking dummies must have been listening, because I've heard that the Rod-erific attack did pretty well in 2005. I wouldn't know. I've blocked out all mental references to West Virginia's 2005 campaign. It's a defense mechanism, and it seems to be working quite well, thank you very much.
After two years wandering the West Virginia hills avoiding the black lung and generally being among the roughly 70% of West Virginians who are both employed and unincarcerated***, Jones jumped on the opportunity of a lifetime: he became the head coach of the Central Michigan Chippewas.
He brought with him a spreadish offense built around a French-American fur trapper and reputed horse thief known as Zippy LeFleour quarterback named Dan LeFevour, who he found living in a broom closet in the athletic office when he arrived. Seeing how fast the little rapscallion moved when the campus fuzz tried to evict him with boiling water and lye, Jones determined that the guy might be a decent football player.****
Turns out he was right. LeFevour led the Chippewas to an 8-5 record in 2007, culminating in a come from behind victory over Purdue in the Bowl for MAC teams that can't get a flight out of Detroit during the holidays Motor City Bowl.***** During the course of their magical MAC mystery tour, CMU also beat Northern Illinois for the first time in 10 years.
Looking ahead, there is still much for Butch Jones to accomplish at Central Michigan. For one, he still has to accomplish something significant enough that it prompts those of us outside MAC country to recognize any meaningful distinction between Central, Western and Eastern Michigan football. Because you could put all three programs in a lineup Usual Suspects-style, and I couldn't tell you which one was Keyser Soze.
He also must eventually find a replacement for kickass backgammon hustler amateur dental surgeon Yakuza-employed heroin mule do-it-all quarterback LeFevour. This will likely involve Pat White, cloning, and an installment of "Ask Dr. Lou" that is even more disturbing than you would presuppose.
Finally, in the short term, Jones has to find a way to beat the University of Georgia on Saturday. He's already praised our eesss-eee-sseee speed. But really, he's just biding his time. My guess is that you won't see a single Chippewa take the field until the 4:00 minute mark of the first quarter, at which point we may be down to playing Uga VII at defensive tackle and two of the cheerleaders on kickoff returns. At least until Uga tears an ACL. Damn that most treacherous of tissues. Damn it to hades.
I'll be back tomorrow with this week's installment of Cocktail Thursday. Until then, everybody stretch well, avoid sharp objects, and don't pet any unfamiliar muskrats. We don't need any more injuries than we already have. And oh yeah,
*Namely, pre-Schiano Rutgers, Wilkes University and the aforementioned Ferris State. There, I mentioned them, hardly. I hope this heads off discontent from the substantial Wilkes University-affiliated readership here at Dawgsports.
**Gross oversimplification for purposes of comedy. Sometimes West Virginia does throw the football. To the fullback.
***Am I bitter about the 2005 Sugar Bowl? I don't know, no more bitter than Iam about the 2002 Florida game, the 1999 Auburn game, or the last two years of the Ray Goff era. Which is to say, "yes".
****Totally not true. LeFevour was the MVP of the 2006 Motor City Bowl underJones' predecessor, Brian Kelly. But it would have been way more interesting this way, don't you think? I mean, that's how John Parker Wilson got his big chance from Nick Saban.
***** Again, not true. The Boilermakers prevailed 51-48, despite playing football in the second half the way Kenny Stabler drives home from a distillery tour: they got there safely but only because, as the saying goes, God watches over fools, drunks and Joe Tiller.