MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Butch Jones wants what Morgantown has.
And the first-year head football coach at the University of Cincinnati, who is a former West Virginia assistant, isn't shy about saying it.
"My son played youth football, little league football there," Jones said of Morgantown, where he coached wide receivers in 2005-06 under then-West Virginia boss Rich Rodriguez. "They had no little league football on Saturdays because they want everyone at the [West Virginia] game, so they move the [little league] football games to Sunday. There are all those little things; every school in town has blue and gold days ... that is a culture we are trying to establish here [at Cincinnati]."
Nothing establishes a culture like wins, and Jones' Bearcats (3-5, 1-2 Big East) could lasso a big conference victory if they are to defeat the Mountaineers (5-3, 1-2) at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field. Both teams are in the throes of two-game losing streaks.
- Game: West Virginia (5-3, 1-2 Big East) vs. Cincinnati (3-5, 1-2), Morgantown, W.Va.
- When: Noon, Saturday.
- TV: WTAE.
- The skinny: Cincinnati has won the past two meetings, but West Virginia owns a 14-3-1 advantage in the series.
Certainly, a losing mark in the Big East at this juncture is not what West Virginia coach Bill Stewart's squad envisioned. Nonetheless, Jones understands what will happen when his team steps onto Mountaineer Field.
"When they play at home, there is a reason why they are 33-5 in the last five years in Morgantown," Jones said.
And those reasons are?
"I think it is a culture," he said. "Their fans, win or lose, are there every game. They have great support; it is the only thing in that state. People grow up being Mountaineer fans from birth. ... It is a very prideful state and they are the show in town and players are heroes there."
Jones drew heavy praise this week from Stewart, who is 16 years older but spent time together on the same staff with Rodriguez.
"People who aren't in the business I'm in have no idea," Stewart said of the time coaching staffs spend together. "They think they work with each other on shift work or whatever and that is all cool, but you don't know them like [football coaches] know each other. You know ins and outs.
"Butch is exactly what you'd want your sister to marry, you'd want him to coach your son, you want to have him as a best friend. That is the kind of man Butch Jones is."
Jones also is a man who can summon the attention of players. West Virginia senior receiver Jock Sanders harkened back to when he was a senior at St. Petersburg Catholic during the 2006 football season. Jones was the point man in recruiting Sanders and heavily influenced the wide receiver's decision to go to West Virginia -- even though, as it would turn out, Jones would never coach him.
"The type of guy that he was, he was straightforward," Sanders said. "He told me how it was and how things went around here. That made me want to come here even more, because he wasn't like most other recruiters. He just told me straight."
While there is an unyielding admiration for a straight-shooter -- as Jones and Stewart are -- there is an understanding that on Saturday, the business of college football trumps friendship for a few hours.
"I like Butch, but I ain't going to like him when we play him," Stewart said, jokingly. "He can marry my sister, but I'll take him out back and punch him in the nose. Think that will make the news?"
Colin Dunlap: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459.