By Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant
Ernest T. Jones, who was hired last month to coach running backs and take on a player engagement role in the UConn football program and ignited a controversy with his comments on the role of religion in the huddle, has resigned.
“Ernest has resigned his position effective immediately here at the university after deep inspection and reflection,” UConn coach Bob Diaco said Monday morning. “And it is entirely family and personally related.”
Jones came under fire after a story appeared in the Courant in January in which he said “we’re going to make sure [players] understand that Jesus Christ should be in the center of our huddle, that that’s something that is important.”
Diaco said he was “shocked” by the resignation of Jones, whom he also worked with at Notre Dame.
“It all was a shock, absolutely,” Diaco said. “He took his time and deeply reflected. He took a week and deeply reflected with his family to make a decision for him and his family to resign his position here and focus on private family matters and pursue other opportunities that facilitate and suit his family.”
UConn President Susan Herbst had responded to the Jones comment in January by saying in a letter to the editor in the Courant that “at public universities we value everyone in our community, and treat each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of who they are, what their background is, or what their beliefs may be. Every student, including student-athletes, must know they are accepted and welcomed at UConn. Always. Our staff should educate and guide students, to ensure they are well-prepared for life at UConn and beyond. But it should go without saying that our employees cannot appear to endorse or advocate for a particular religion or spiritual philosophy as part of their work at the university, or in their interactions with our students. This applies to work-related activity anywhere on or off campus, including on the football field. Our athletic director and Coach Diaco agree wholeheartedly with me, and have made this clear to their staff.”
Diaco said Monday that “the university administration and the department were extremely supportive and provided education to me which I passed along to the staff about speaking on behalf of the university as a university representative. The fact of the matter is life happens. And things arise in people’s lives that need attention and this is entirely, 100 percent coincidental.”