'Dumb luck' leads Jones to WVU

The resources may be more limited at West Virginia than they were at Texas, but that challenge was part of the draw for Curtis Jones, WVU's new assistant athletic director for academic support.

The impact of cash in intercollegiate athletics is obvious in many ways to those who spend time on campus at a major football power -- facilities upgrades to provide players with every conceivable amenity, top-tier coaches on staff and more.

But Jones said dollars matter in supporting student-athletes academically as well. Indeed, Texas could hire enough tutors to almost give each player their own individually-tailored instruction.

"Other places, you can't do that," Jones acknowledged. "You've got to be more strategic about when you schedule kids, the holes in their schedule that match up with people they need to work with to get supplemental instruction. What are the different times of day they can come in and work around practice and class schedules to get skill development and supplemental instruction?"

That's why a cookie-cutter approach to academics won't work, as Jones can't simply take what worked at Texas and bring it to Morgantown.

But after many conversations with WVU staffers, including athletic director Oliver Luck, football coach Dana Holgorsen and football operations director Alex Hammond, Jones came to the conclusion that the opportunity to join the Mountaineers' administration was a unique one suited to someone with an analytical approach to problem-solving.

"It's a rare opportunity to get involved with a program as established as West Virginia, but yet have the opportunity to be innovative and improve and enhance and do some outside-the-box thinking," Jones said. "That's the kind of person Oliver is, and I gathered that from the rest of the staff and the administration too. The people that are involved, getting in on the ground floor and all having the same agenda and rowing the boat in the same direction really excited me about coming here."

But before Jones does much in the way of moving and shaking, he plans to simply sit back and get a feel for his new environs. The first days in his new job will be spent simply evaluating the programs currently in place at WVU and the academic situations of individual student-athletes.

Initially, at least, Jones will work within the parameters of the system that is currently in place. For example, the athletic department does not currently use part-time employees in academic support, and Jones won't immediately change that. In the long-term, it could happen, he said.

"I said to one of my co-workers the other day, ‘I like to get a feel for the rhythm of a place before I decide to change the music,'" Jones said.

The way the opportunity came about "was really kind of dumb luck" according to Jones. Holgorsen and Hammond were on campus at Texas, touring facilities. They popped into Jones' office and spoke for a few minutes "about academics, philosophy, some ideas and structure."

"I happened to be in my office, and my boss wasn't," Jones said with a laugh.

That chance encounter led Jones to West Virginia and may ultimately change the way the school offers support to its student-athletes in the years to come.

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