As Tennessee resets coaching search, Cincinnati's Butch Jones appears to be target

Louisville's Strong turns down UT

Butch Jones

Photo by David Kohl, AP2009

Butch Jones

Dave Hart

Photo by Adam Brimer

Dave Hart

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart hoped to have a coach on campus, clad in an orange tie and ready for work on Thursday.

Instead, after Louisville coach Charlie Strong turned down the Vols' lucrative offer, Hart appears to have moved quickly to his backup plan.

Cincinnati coach Butch Jones is Tennessee's top target, according to a report late Thursday by News Sentinel partner GoVols247. If Hart offers the job, Jones could be introduced as the Vols' new coach today.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said that neither Jones nor athletic director Whit Babcock returned calls for comment all day Thursday. Jones' agent, Trace Armstrong, told the News Sentinel he could not comment on the reports.

The Enquirer reported that the Bearcats called a 7:30 a.m. team meeting for today, although it's not clear when the meeting was scheduled and whether it was meant to address the ongoing coaching rumors or something more routine, like preparations for Cincinnati's trip to the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27.

Jones has been in high demand since the Bearcats' capped a 9-3 season with a victory at Connecticut on Dec. 1. Jones and his wife visited Purdue on Sunday and Colorado on Monday, ultimately turning down both jobs.

The Colorado courtship was particularly bizarre. The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Jones had accepted an offer of five years and $13.5 million. Jones, who was reached by reporters minutes later while eating at a Cracker Barrel in Charlotte, N.C., adamantly denied that he had accepted the job but said he was still "50/50" between Cincinnati and Colorado.

On Thursday, not long after Jones had finally turned down the Colorado job, reports linking him to the Tennessee job emerged.

Cincinnati officials, who have patiently endured his cross-country tour of open coaching jobs, could not have been thrilled by the news. That leads many to believe Jones can't allow the current rumors to fester, and must make a decision between Tennessee and Cincinnati quickly.

Reaction to the prospect of Jones getting the Tennessee job was largely negative online. One UT player even weighed in.

Offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson tweeted: "Could someone educate me on who Butch Jones is? Thanks."

Later, he added: "I didn't mean that last tweet in a sarcastic manner either ... I was really curious."

If Jones is the top target, Tennessee likely will try to move quickly to avoid the embarrassment of another public rejection.

Tennessee was confident that it had landed Strong, only to have its offer spurned late Wednesday. Another top target, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, broke his silence on Thursday.

Gundy said he was committed to Oklahoma State and downplayed his level of interest in other jobs.

"In our profession, if you do good, people are going to contact you. If you don't, you're going to get fired," Gundy told reporters.

"The only thing I'm going to say is they haven't gone as deep as what people say," Gundy said.

Meanwhile Scout.com reported that North Carolina coach Larry Fedora told his team that he had no plans to coach anywhere else in 2013.

Jones, who will turn 45 next month, has a career path that has closely followed that of Brian Kelly, his one-time boss at Central Michigan. When Kelly left for Cincinnati after the 2006 season, Jones replaced him, going 27-13 in three seasons. When Kelly left UC for Notre Dame, Jones followed him again. Jones is 23-14 in three seasons with the Bearcats, including a 10-win performance in 2011. Jones grew up in Saugatuck, Mich., and graduated from Ferris State in 1990. Jones made $1.77 million this year. It would cost $1.4 million to buy out his contract.

Hart is seeking a replacement for Derek Dooley, who was fired on Nov. 18 after three losing seasons.

Jones has been to Knoxville before. The Bearcats were routed by Tennessee 45-23 on Sept. 12, 2011, in Neyland Stadium. Cincinnati recovered from the loss to finish the season ranked 25th, giving Dooley his only win against a team that finished the year in the Top 25.

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat

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Comments » 139

allvol9 writes:

With his coaching under Brian Kelly, a 50-27 record and just being named Big East coach of the year for the 2nd time....and that is over Charlie Strong...I say let's get it done. Don't understand the tirades on here.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Jones speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

Read this article from the Cincinnati "Enquirer," in which Jones is said to have negotiated with a half-dozen schools in the last two years, but claims he thinks he has "proved that he wants to be (in Cincinnati.)"

What a con artist. But it takes a con to fool a con...and both Hart and Cheek appear to have been conned.

And UT is about to go through another five or six years in which Football is no longer relevant---but then, so far this year, neither is basketball.

Thanks, Hamilton.
Thanks, Peterson.
Thanks, Hart.
Thanks, Cheek.
Thanks, Board of Trustees.

$125,000,000 per year athletics budget and this manure is what Tennessee taxpayers are given in return for it. (Yeah, I know; the athletics budget is not from the taxpayers, more or less; except that now Cheek wants to lop off huge chunks of it, to fund academics. So under Cheek, it really equates to tax dollars, because that's where the money will have to come from, if Cheek is forced to give back the athletics bucks he grabbed.)

Who the hell is minding the store? One of the ten biggest athletics budgets in America and UT looks like a bunch of snaggled-toothed rednecks are running the place.

The state's premier university, formerly, has become the laughinstock of American collegiate athletics.

Let me get this straight: Uh, UT fired Phillip Fulmer for THIS:

a. Lane Kiffin
b. Derrick Dooley
c. Butch Jones ????????

What a bunch of numbskulls are running the show...

govolsdid writes:

First- He has won every where he has been and he should have learned from Kelley what it takes to WIN at every level. I think he will work hard to prove this at UT. GO BIG ORANGE!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Let's get this done..I'm on board..GBO!!

redskinvol1 writes:

HART HAS FAILED!!THIS WOULD BE A BOTTOM OF THE BARREL HIRE!!THREE YEARS AND BACK TO ANOTHER COACHING SEARCH!!!WHAT A WASTE OF THREE YEARS!!TRESSEL 2015!!

allvol9 writes:

I wonder if the Notre Dame fans went crazy when Kelley was hired there 3 years ago...now look at them. His players love him and his passion. I hope this deal gets done and soon.

torchbearer writes:

I love that the article says "Notre Damn". Also, after firing a hall of famer, being left at the altar by "Left Lane", hiring Doo Doo, and the butt chug incident, UT is in a pretty bad PR spot. We need something to infuse energy here and change UT perception (which is mostly reality) or we are destined to become irrelevant. As an alum I wonder "What in the hell are people doing in Knoxville?" Its like trying to give monkeys haircuts to find a coach and right this ship. The Leadership needs to lead or WE FANS will faithfully divorce you. The backbone of UT is not the boosters, coaches or administration. It is and always will be the players, students and fans. We deserve better and are just tired of you all.

jplemons80 writes:

What happened to Bo Pelini? I heard that the guy is actually wanting to come here and he has won in a major conference.

Rosie writes:

Great! Lets hire the one guy the loser Dooley beat! Hart- you're doing a great job! Expect ad revenue the skyrocket.

DonK37920 writes:

WTH didn't Hart squash the Gruden rumors early on. He let it go on too long and now any other hire is a failure in the fans eyes. The PR on the hill is the worst in the nation. WTH is Cheek involved at all? There are many many NFL assistants I would rather have if we have to resort to long shots. TOTAL FAILURE!

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

If the guy really did a tour of some schools, and decids to take UT job shouldn't that mean he wants to be here and wants to coach in the SEC?

We find one of the guys being sought after by various schools and we act like babies crying?

Strong wasn't pursued as much as this guy neither was Fedora nor Gundy.

spacehistorian writes:

Jones seems like a solid coach who can recruit kids to come play hard for his program. If he is able to take advantage of the many resources Tennessee offers he could bring in the talent & coach them up in order to compete with the elite teams of the SEC. I can't see his players ever quitting on him like we saw happen in Lexington last year. He is relatively young but with good head coaching experience. Not a superstar or big name hire that many in Vol Nation wanted but I prefer a coach of substance willing to work hard for Tennessee with the intention of making it the final stop in his coaching career. I can see the potential for Jones to do something great with our football program if we support him as he rebuilds. It won't be quick, easy or without hiccups along the way but I believe that Jones is a superior coach to Derek Dooley and we will see that on the practice field, in the weight room, in game prep and most importantly Jones & his staff will be able to make halftime adjustments against their opponents which has been lacking here for many years. We have a decent pool of talent on campus and Jones could make us competitive next year while pulling off a surprise upset here and there. He isn't the second coming of General Neyland but I am willing to give him a chance to return our Vols to challenging for SEC and National Titles. The negative talk online will not advance UT's football program and can hinder Jones ability to recruit talent to sign with Tennessee. We need a positive vibe once Jones is officially named as our new head coach and do our best to support those who don the Big Orange for us every Saturday in the fall. So I will be patient and will wait to pass judgement on Jones until he has a body of work at Tennessee from which to review. Patience is not easy but it helps deal with the stress of following the Vols time in the SEC Basement. Let's hope Jones is opening the door to the stairs that lead out of the basement and back to the top of the SEC. So let's welcome Jones to Knoxville with some enthusiasm and show up to support our Vols on the gridiron every Saturday. Go Vols!!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

If the guy really did a tour of some schools, and decids to take UT job shouldn't that mean he wants to be here and wants to coach in the SEC?

We find one of the guys being sought after by various schools and we act like babies crying?

Strong wasn't pursued as much as this guy neither was Fedora nor Gundy.

Good point, BJ wants to be a Vol and for that reason these whiners bash the man?? I'm giving him a chance.

Rosie writes:

If this article is true, it's time to make immediate plans for harts removal. It's clear he wasn't prepared for a search everyone knew was inevitable a year ago. Butch jones is pathetic! Hart and cheek are a joke.

pcshowtime writes:

You do not want Bobby Petrino because he will leave in a few years. Wake up this guy looks at more job offers than cheap hooker.
We had leverage on petrino and could have basically wrote the contract to suit us.
oh well

LifetimeVolFan writes:

Unbelieveable. Same old bull phooey. Here's a new one. How about "LET's NOT GIVE HIM A CHANCE". A pig is a pig even with lipstick. Top 10 all-time winningest program in college football and this is the best we can do? I for one dont' believe it is--we need a competent group of administrators to attract competent, top quality coaches.

allvol9 writes:

If he is offered and if he says yes....then he must really want to be here. Finally someone would have turned down several programs to come to UT...not use us for an extension and pay raise. I think we have our man and I am ready to bring him on board...not bash him.

chrisw2967 writes:

Pathetic , no wonder Tenn is the laughing stock of the SEC. Next year they will have fun trying to fill Neyland. Wont happen.

LifetimeVolFan writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

Jones speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

Read this article from the Cincinnati "Enquirer," in which Jones is said to have negotiated with a half-dozen schools in the last two years, but claims he thinks he has "proved that he wants to be (in Cincinnati.)"

What a con artist. But it takes a con to fool a con...and both Hart and Cheek appear to have been conned.

And UT is about to go through another five or six years in which Football is no longer relevant---but then, so far this year, neither is basketball.

Thanks, Hamilton.
Thanks, Peterson.
Thanks, Hart.
Thanks, Cheek.
Thanks, Board of Trustees.

$125,000,000 per year athletics budget and this manure is what Tennessee taxpayers are given in return for it. (Yeah, I know; the athletics budget is not from the taxpayers, more or less; except that now Cheek wants to lop off huge chunks of it, to fund academics. So under Cheek, it really equates to tax dollars, because that's where the money will have to come from, if Cheek is forced to give back the athletics bucks he grabbed.)

Who the hell is minding the store? One of the ten biggest athletics budgets in America and UT looks like a bunch of snaggled-toothed rednecks are running the place.

The state's premier university, formerly, has become the laughinstock of American collegiate athletics.

Let me get this straight: Uh, UT fired Phillip Fulmer for THIS:

a. Lane Kiffin
b. Derrick Dooley
c. Butch Jones ????????

What a bunch of numbskulls are running the show...

AMEN!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

BJ is old enough to handle the job and still young enough to physically do the job.

Rosie writes:

in response to redskinvol1:

HART HAS FAILED!!THIS WOULD BE A BOTTOM OF THE BARREL HIRE!!THREE YEARS AND BACK TO ANOTHER COACHING SEARCH!!!WHAT A WASTE OF THREE YEARS!!TRESSEL 2015!!

Amen, brother.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

The Trolls are out. If you have a brain examine coaches mentioned, and Butch Jones record. He is as good or better. None mentioned as candidates can out do Jones in college the last few years. He has more HC exp than Strong. More total wins and experience over Gruden at college level, and he has done it against decent teams and even ole Vandy.

So keep trolling you're not really here for anything good anyway.

pcshowtime writes:

"He held out for the UT Job."
To quote Mr. Hand "Are you on dope."
Wake up he pimps himself out every year for jobs money talks with this guy that is all.

orangehippi writes:

hey

oskie_score writes:

I stated my piece in John Adam's article "Tennessee might have found a "yes" man"...

orangehippi writes:

And remember recruits do see this site,that is why trolls from other sites such as bama ga and fla get on here spreading their trash,i could to,but i'm not that low.so support our new coach,go vols 2013

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

"He held out for the UT Job."
To quote Mr. Hand "Are you on dope."
Wake up he pimps himself out every year for jobs money talks with this guy that is all.

Really? so 2 jobs over 6 years, 3yrs. with each school is horrible in college or pro football? He followed 1 guy both times Brain Kelly, oh my, that's so unheard of? And now he may land one paying him top 10 or maybe 5 in Nation, where would he jump?

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

If he is the guy, then it's a fine welcome many of you fans are giving him. Geez!

Come on, at least give the guy a chance. Two time coach or the year in the Big East, and an overall winning record -- that alone should make a lot of people happy.

I just think it's ironic that he's the only guy who had a decent team blown out by Dooley.

arkansasvol1975 writes:

I know very little about this man....which scares me. Its a big roll of the dice. One thing Hart and Cheek need to think, the wrong roll of the dice can cost them their jobs. I still can not believe that UT paid Mike Hamilton $1.3 million for what he did.....just makes me mad as hell ever time I think about it. He single handedly destroyed a historied proud program to this! We are now offering the rains over to a little known up and comer that our fired coached handily beat in 2011. WTF! This is not the "wow" factor I was looking for.

dnashj33#263980 writes:

I've followed UT football religiously since before the 85 season, but today, I'm throwing in the towel. Been kicked in the marbles by this program every year since Cutcliffe left the Vols and was replaced by the Clawfense. Two abysmal AD's in a row. We have a Bamer as an AD and a Gator as the Chancellor. They have utterly sabotaged the program. I have no hope left for it, and will no longer follow it, until Hart and Cheek are replaced with competent individuals. This is utterly disgusting. Gary Patterson is arguably the most consistently winning candidate out there and his name isn't even mentioned. The fans could get behind an NFL guy like Josh McDaniels, Jack Del Rio, or Greg Roman. Yet, we have to settle 3 times in a row for Budget Rental candidates.

redskinvol1 writes:

IF ALL ELSE FAILS AND IT LOOKS LIKE IT HAS IF JONES IS THE GUY!!HIRE SOMEONE THAT BLEEDS ORANGE AND GIVE CHAVIS THREE YEARS BECAUSE THATS ALL JONES WILL LAST!!FIRE HART NOW!!

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

in response to DonK37920:

WTH didn't Hart squash the Gruden rumors early on. He let it go on too long and now any other hire is a failure in the fans eyes. The PR on the hill is the worst in the nation. WTH is Cheek involved at all? There are many many NFL assistants I would rather have if we have to resort to long shots. TOTAL FAILURE!

I'm with you on that... We can have Jack Del Rio we can have the offensive or defensive coordinator of Green Bay We can have Eric Mangini The defensive coordinator for Pittsburgh Steelers The offense of coordinators for the New England Patriots.... And the list goes on and on..... but East Tennessee did not recognize the NFL....so we will be with 2.0 ..heck we could even have Sean Payton for 5 bills but UT is too stupid... Dave hart is a nobody loser that's what you get when you get Florida Gators and Alabama bags running the show... just like Arkansas you gotta ask to know... went big... scored big

pcshowtime writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Really? so 2 jobs over 6 years, 3yrs. with each school is horrible in college or pro football? He followed 1 guy both times Brain Kelly, oh my, that's so unheard of? And now he may land one paying him top 10 or maybe 5 in Nation, where would he jump?

He has intevied with 7 schools in the past two years to get raises from cincy. You do not have to leave to be about the money moron. Look at what gundy did to hart and couple of more jimmy sexton clients as well.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to pcshowtime:

He has intevied with 7 schools in the past two years to get raises from cincy. You do not have to leave to be about the money moron. Look at what gundy did to hart and couple of more jimmy sexton clients as well.

Exactly moron you said it, look at Gundy, Miles, Strong, Spurrier, Petrino, Malzahn, Arkansas new coach?. Geez should I stop?

Thing is he stayed, now he gets those big bucks, where does he go next? You are the one claiming he jumps? where to NFL?

pcshowtime writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Exactly moron you said it, look at Gundy, Miles, Strong, Spurrier, Petrino, Malzahn, Arkansas new coach?. Geez should I stop?

Thing is he stayed, now he gets those big bucks, where does he go next? You are the one claiming he jumps? where to NFL?

If he was to get offered by a larger program like say his home state Michigan He will leave.

coltsman writes:

in response to redskinvol1:

HART HAS FAILED!!THIS WOULD BE A BOTTOM OF THE BARREL HIRE!!THREE YEARS AND BACK TO ANOTHER COACHING SEARCH!!!WHAT A WASTE OF THREE YEARS!!TRESSEL 2015!!

Hart has done a real good job and you and the others guys need to read what they're saying.
He's gone after everybody that the people wanted and they don't want to come here. First it was Gruden and he turned us down then it was Fisher and some others. Everyone was wanting Strong and he didn't want to come. He didn't want to play in the SEC because he was afraid of not winning. Butch has wanted this job from day one and he almost beat Tenn. 2yrs ago with Wilcox defense. Hart has tried to please everyone and offered Strong 4 million and he turned it down. Let's get behind Hart and see what he does.I agree we all have an OPINION and this is mine. hang in ther redskin i'm a coltman and we do have the best two QB's in the PRO'S

totoiv writes:

I like to read the papers where the potential coaches are from to see what they are saying. And, the fans on the Cincinnati paper don't seem to be too upset about losing Jones himself. Some are concern that they have lost three coaches in just a few years and that they have become a revolving door per say. Others, say Jones is winning with Kelly's players (Notre Dame coach) and that he has not been as successful as the past two coaches. So, they are not too upset on losing him.

pcshowtime writes:

in response to tnoutlaw2001#228008:

Exactly moron you said it, look at Gundy, Miles, Strong, Spurrier, Petrino, Malzahn, Arkansas new coach?. Geez should I stop?

Thing is he stayed, now he gets those big bucks, where does he go next? You are the one claiming he jumps? where to NFL?

Look I like the hire better than strong but the way this search was handled is what has the fan base in a up roar. He has interviewed 7 times in the last two years. Remember Lane kiffen. He told colorado that he wanted the job does a 180 when he finds out Wisconsin opened back up. He has been shopping for jobs that is all I am saying.

willtowin writes:

He has been a winner wherever he has been.He has beaten charlie strong, frank beamer, and has been named big east coach of the year twice.Give him a chance.

67classut writes:

The AD should look at Willie Taggert. HC of WKy is highly recommended by Harbaugh and being interviewed at Wisconsin. He is young, capable and as a black coach highly relatable to his players, calm demeaner.

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

Atlanta Falcons are doing pretty good this year

willtowin writes:

He has been a winner wherever he has been.He has beaten charlie strong, frank beamer, and James franklin. He has been named big east coach of the year twice.Give him a chance.

pcshowtime writes:

in response to 67classut:

The AD should look at Willie Taggert. HC of WKy is highly recommended by Harbaugh and being interviewed at Wisconsin. He is young, capable and as a black coach highly relatable to his players, calm demeaner.

the Harbaugh Coaching tree is a great one and has bared a lot of fruit. As opposed the Saban coaching tree that is more like a weed.

redskinvol1 writes:

in response to coltsman:

Hart has done a real good job and you and the others guys need to read what they're saying.
He's gone after everybody that the people wanted and they don't want to come here. First it was Gruden and he turned us down then it was Fisher and some others. Everyone was wanting Strong and he didn't want to come. He didn't want to play in the SEC because he was afraid of not winning. Butch has wanted this job from day one and he almost beat Tenn. 2yrs ago with Wilcox defense. Hart has tried to please everyone and offered Strong 4 million and he turned it down. Let's get behind Hart and see what he does.I agree we all have an OPINION and this is mine. hang in ther redskin i'm a coltman and we do have the best two QB's in the PRO'S

You ARE RIGHT!!GOOD LUCK TO YOU!!GO VOLS AND HTTR!!

radiomafia#577548 writes:

“Butch Jones followed the career path of Brian Kelly,” is that good? Isn’t that coattails? Success created by Kelly set him up at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Hate that we missed out on Art Briles from Baylor; they just extended his deal 3 days ago.

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to allvol9:

With his coaching under Brian Kelly, a 50-27 record and just being named Big East coach of the year for the 2nd time....and that is over Charlie Strong...I say let's get it done. Don't understand the tirades on here.

The tirades are coming from the Hart haters and the Gruden droolers.

DukeDeLuca2 writes:

Okay. My time.

1) Three months ago, we pulled a big upset over Jones and Cincinnati at Neyland Stadium. Dooley basically coached Jones' pants off. Perhaps that made us too optimistic for the rest of 2012, I don't know. But here's the question:

Leaving the stadium that day, if you were told that you could have Jones instead of Dooley for the rest of the rebuilding project at UT, would you have applauded?

A simple yes or no to the question will do.

2) Did we really fire Derek Dooley for this?

3) I haven't been for bringing Phil Fulmer back. Not because I don't think he's a GREAT coach! HE IS! Not because I don't think he would win. HE WOULD! I'm not in favor of bringing him back because our fans are too danged dumb to accept it. Our fans want someone young and pretty.

Butch Jones couldn't hold Phil Fulmer's jockstrap.

4) You can start the hoo-rah later. Can you really look at yourself in the mirror and say this is an improvement? Don't throw numbers at me - Cincinnati doesn't play in the SEC. Do you really think this is a forward move, a backward move, or a lateral move?

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

Jones speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

Read this article from the Cincinnati "Enquirer," in which Jones is said to have negotiated with a half-dozen schools in the last two years, but claims he thinks he has "proved that he wants to be (in Cincinnati.)"

What a con artist. But it takes a con to fool a con...and both Hart and Cheek appear to have been conned.

And UT is about to go through another five or six years in which Football is no longer relevant---but then, so far this year, neither is basketball.

Thanks, Hamilton.
Thanks, Peterson.
Thanks, Hart.
Thanks, Cheek.
Thanks, Board of Trustees.

$125,000,000 per year athletics budget and this manure is what Tennessee taxpayers are given in return for it. (Yeah, I know; the athletics budget is not from the taxpayers, more or less; except that now Cheek wants to lop off huge chunks of it, to fund academics. So under Cheek, it really equates to tax dollars, because that's where the money will have to come from, if Cheek is forced to give back the athletics bucks he grabbed.)

Who the hell is minding the store? One of the ten biggest athletics budgets in America and UT looks like a bunch of snaggled-toothed rednecks are running the place.

The state's premier university, formerly, has become the laughinstock of American collegiate athletics.

Let me get this straight: Uh, UT fired Phillip Fulmer for THIS:

a. Lane Kiffin
b. Derrick Dooley
c. Butch Jones ????????

What a bunch of numbskulls are running the show...

Stop whining!

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

Go big or go home.... Unemployed Sean Payton could use 5 bills right now

gobigorange5090 writes:

How about you whiners shutting the hell up and giving the guy a chance! Enough already!! If all you're going to do is whine and moan, UT doesnt need you!

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