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Butch Jones leaves Cincinnati for Tennessee ahead of Belk Bowl

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

With just several weeks to go before Charlotte is in the spotlight with its annual college bowl game, but it looks like only one head coach will be making the trip to the Queen City.

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats are slated to take on the Duke Blue Devils, but Cincinnati's head coach Butch Jones has accepted a new job.

Jones, 44, has resigned from his position as Cincinnati's head coach, effective immediately, according to the school's athletic director, after being hired as the next head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

A news conference is expected in Knoxville, TN, Friday to officially announce the hire.

Jones reportedly resigned as the players met to start preparing to face Duke in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27

The team plans to start practicing for the bowl game on Saturday.

"It's our job to make sure our football program continues to operate at a high level,'' athletics director Whit Babcock said.

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.

Jones had a $1.4 million buyout in his contract, which was extended through 2017 after the Bearcats got a share of the Big East title last year.

Jones holds an overall head coaching record of 50-27, including a 23-14 mark with the Cincinnati Bearcats. His team tied for first in the Big East in 2011 and 2012, going 9-3 (5-2 in conference play) this year.

He replaces former coach Derek Dooley, who went 15-21 in his three years leading the Volunteers, with a 4-19 record against SEC teams.

Jones had been openly sought by multiple programs, including Purdue and Colorado. On Wednesday, the Denver Post reported he had taken the job with the Buffaloes, which Jones declined.

The Volunteers contacted ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who indicated he wasn't interested. The Vols then pursued Charlie Strong, who said Thursday he had turned down their offer and would stay at Louisville.

Jones will become Tennessee's fourth coach in a six-season stretch, not including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's stint as interim head coach in the 2012 season finale after Dooley's dismissal Nov. 18. Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008 after posting a 152-52 record. Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for Southern California.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said at the start of the search that head coaching experience was "critically important" and that he wanted a coach who "knows the difficulty of climbing the ladder in the SEC."

Jones lacks SEC experience, but he has a career winning percentage of .649. Jones' teams have earned at least a share of a conference title in 4 of his six seasons as a head coach.

Copyright 2012 WBTV. Raycom News Network contributed to this article.. All rights reserved.

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