West Virginia has added yet another Big 12 face to its athletic program. This time, however, that face is just as involved in the academic aspect of student athletes' lives as he is in athletics.
Curtis Jones has come to Morgantown to be the assistant athletic director for academic support after serving as an academic counselor for football players at Texas.
Basically, Jones is here to help keep players out of any sort of academic trouble, and while his title does not include the word "football," he says he will be the de facto football assistant AD.
While Jones will be handling some big picture things, including dealing with academic plans, he'll be spending some individual time with players helping them do things like help manage their time. In fact, he says that can be one of the toughest things for student athletes.
"Probably the number one thing is just the lack of free time they have," said Jones. "They don't understand that, coming into a program like this, most of their time is regimented. Most of their time is accounted for. That's what makes our jobs more difficult, because they're constantly looking for ways to get more free time, and typically, academics is the soft spot in the fence, so to speak."
Coming from Texas, Jones knows what it's like to be at a school where football rules all. West Virginia is in a similar situation, and with the amount of attention that the team gets, it can also be difficult for players to deal with becoming a sort of celebrity on campus.
"You're dealing with the fame aspect of it," Jones said. "Everyone knows these kids, so everything they do is under a microscope, and they're probably not used to that. Somebody else could do something on campus and it wouldn't raise anybody's eyebrows, but if they do something, it's going to be in the newspaper."
Jones is still getting used to his new surroundings. There are still many within the department, including coaches, that he has yet to meet with. It's too early for him to make any huge changes in the program.
"There's nothing that I've seen that I need or want to change right away," he said. "I'm still getting a feel for some of the things that we need to improve on, and where we stand both as a football team and as an overall sports department as far as academics go. I'm still assessing that and where we are, and if we need to change things down the road, we can."
This will be the eighth year that Jones has dealt with the academic side of college athletics. He hasn't always dealt with football, and says that football, like any other sport, can present its own challenges.
"It's the only sport where, at any given time, two-thirds of the team is not participating," he said, "so it's hard to motivate a student athlete that knows, come Saturday, he's not going to play."
No matter the sport, turning things around for an athlete gives the Jones the same satisfaction.
"It's fun and it's really fulfilling to work with student athletes and have a direct impact that you can see," he said, "and developing relationships with them and seeing them disappointed when they don't do well academically, and just helping them grow in their confidence. So many of the student athletes that we get, they're not confident academically, and when they figure out they can do it, and they start to be disappointed in themselves when they don't, that's when you know you've turned a corner."
When it comes to student athletes, we sometimes forget about the student aspect, especially when it comes to bigger programs like football and basketball. However, people like Jones help make sure that the athletes don't forget about it, and now he'll bring what he knows to Morgantown to help WVU football players.