A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Jones Regrets The Way He Left
“I really am going to miss Notre Dame,” said Jones, a sophomore quarterback who enrolled at Northern Illinois Wednesday, practiced with the Irish Thursday, went AWOL on Friday and began classes at his new school Monday.
“I’m not sorry I went to Notre Dame in the first place,” Jones told The Tribune via cell phone Sunday. “I learned a lot of lessons about life there. It made me a better person in a lot of ways. But the way I left was pretty immature. I’ve heard people say that, and they’re right. I should have handled it better.
“Here’s the way I look at it, the team was in a slump. Michigan was a ‘must’ game. I’m not sure me trying to take coach Weis’ attention off the game last week was the right thing to do. I also don’t think going to Michigan and going through the motions and pretending I was happy was the right thing to do either.
“I feel like my integrity has been challenged. I admit I made an immature decision, but I think it’s going to turn out to be a good decision. It probably won’t be the last immature decision I make. I’m human. But what we’re talking about here is a dream — my dream. I’m a man. I made my bed, and I’m willing to lay in it, whatever that might bring.”
Weis, who canceled his Sunday press conference to put the Irish (0-3) through a full-pads practice, said Saturday he wanted to talk to Jones first before commenting on the situation. The two had not yet connected, according to both Jones and Weis, as of Sunday evening.
Jones attended Northern Illinois’ 21-19 loss to East Michigan Saturday in DeKalb, Ill., instead of ND’s 38-0 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. He says he still has not had contact with the Northern Illinois coaching staff and has no idea when he’ll begin practicing his new team.
“If they even know I’m here, it’s because of rumors and nothing I told them,” he said. “My plan is to practice with them this year and be eligible to play next fall. I’d then have three years of eligibility. That’s how I hope it works out.”
Even in the painful hours that followed his first collegiate start Sept. 1 against Georgia Tech and his demotion that same afternoon, Jones was determined to make it work out in South Bend.
He was ND’s leading rusher in the 33-3 loss to the Yellow Jackets with 28 yards on 12 carries, but only got to throw three passes, completing one. He also lost two fumbles.
But Weis’ comments Tuesday of the following week, implying that freshman Jimmy Clausen was the No. 1 option all along and that Jones was simply keeping his seat warm until the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the 2007 class was healthy, stung Jones.
“I got my opportunity in the Georgia Tech game,” Jones said. “I realize I didn’t play well and if me not being No. 1 anymore was the result of that, I was willing to live with it.
“I said after the game I wanted to come back stronger. Those are the words that came out of my mouth, and you can check it. But when I heard Jimmy was the No. 1 all the way through spring and that the only thing that was keeping him out of the lineup was his surgery.”
“Well that’s not what I was led to believe going into the summer. I thought I was getting a chance because coach Weis believed in me. Then I didn’t know what to believe anymore.
“I thought I’d be a good fit for this team, with my mobility and a young offensive line. But when I found that out that Jimmy was going to be the quarterback no matter what, I thought to myself, ‘Do I wait for my opportunity or do I go out and make my opportunity?’ “
Jones’ departure and that of sophomore Zach Frazer (Connecticut) in June, leaves the Irish with three scholarship QBs — Clausen, junior Evan Sharpley and senior Darrin Bragg, the latter of whom has yet to play a down at ND at either QB or his former position, wide receiver.
“I want Notre Dame to do well, and I realize what I’m walking away from,” Jones said. “Education is what you make of it wherever you go. With the football part, you have to go where somebody’s willing to give you an opportunity.
“There wasn’t a lot of people giving me input and trying to influence me. This was a very difficult decision, but it was also an informed decision and a prayed decision. College coaching is a business, but so is playing. So is playing.”