MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- One way or another, Butch Jones was going to come back to coach at Mountaineer Field again.
The Cincinnati coach brings his scuffling team to campus for Saturday's noon game on the Big East telecast network for the first time since working as a Mountaineer assistant in 2005 and '06 and interviewing to succeed Rich Rodriguez following the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
"It's going to be a little different bus ride in and being on the opposite side of the fans pulling up to the stadium," Jones said. "It's going to be a little different standing on the opposite sideline.
"I have a lot of dear friends and true friends there, not only in that community, but in that administration and on that coaching staff. Once game time hits, it's about competing. I am looking forward to going back, but it's also going to be a great challenge."
Jones, 42, was the offensive coordinator at Central Michigan and an aspiring head coach when he was hired at WVU as the wide receivers coach.
After working closely with Rodriguez and the others on the staff, developing receivers and a wildly productive offense and recruiting at a high level that included current senior Jock Sanders, Jones was brought back to the Chippewas in 2006 when Brian Kelley left CMU for Cincinnati.
Rodriguez left WVU for Michigan in 2007 and he and Jones spoke occasionally as Jones emerged as a replacement candidate.
Jones interviewed twice for the job.
Skip Holtz, then the coach at East Carolina, and Mike Locksley, then the offensive coordinator at Illinois, joined Jones as the leading candidates. Bill Stewart then won the Fiesta Bowl and was elevated from interim to head coach following a 48-28 victory over Oklahoma.
Jones went 27-13 at CMU with a 20-3 record in Mid-American Conference play and was hired again to replace Kelly - this time at Cincinnati - last December.
Stewart never has never faced Locksley, now the coach at New Mexico and 2-19 in his second season. Holtz was 1-1 against Stewart at ECU and lost his first game against Stewart as the USF coach last month, 20-6, at Mountaineer Field.
The game against the Bearcats will be Stewart's first against Jones.
"He's a great coach and a great master of attention to detail," Stewart said. "I love him. He made me a better coach and hopefully I rubbed off on him a little bit.
"Anytime you work with someone, you get a special bond and a closeness that people that have never been in sports don't understand. But now, come Saturday, the friendship is on hold and may the best team win."