Wednesday, Ohio State lost former athletic director Jim Jones when he passed away at the age of 83 at his winter home in Bonita Springs, Florida.
Jones, who spent nearly four decades with the university before taking an early retirement in 1994 at the age of 57, succeeded Rick Bay as athletic director when the latter resigned following the firing of football coach Earle Bruce in November 1987. Jones was hired for the position in 1988.
In a letter sent to The Dispatch on Wednesday evening, Bay expressed his sadness of the passing of a man he considered "both a good friend and a highly valued colleague" when he became OSU’s athletic director in May 1984. Bay came to the university after having previously held the same position at the University of Oregon and was promoted ahead of Jones, who first came to Ohio State in 1965.
Rather than express bitterness at having been passed over for the job, Bay said Jones embraced him – even in spite of Bay’s background, which included time at rival Michigan as first a football player and wrestler and then later a wrestling coach.
"I was very sorry to hear of Jim Jones passing," Bay said in the email. "Prior to my appointment, Jim had served as AD Hugh Hindman's right-hand man for many years and had to be disappointed in apparently being passed over to succeed Hugh. But he never showed it and served as my faithful senior associate for all the time I was in the chair.
"Given my background at as an athlete and coach at Michigan, I knew that my acceptance by Buckeye Nation was going to be a challenge. I know there was initial trepidation, if not an expectation, that I was going to clean house and bring in ‘my own people.’ But I didn’t, and Jim was instrumental in making my transition as efficient as possible. He knew the history of the place. He paved the way for me to meet the longtime leaders of the Buckeye extended family and support group, and he always made sure I had the intel to confront sensitive situations that I couldn’t have known about.
"As my senior associate, he was a kind of father confessor for the staff, and they loved him. He had a great sense of humor and made me laugh at his unique distinction between the two kinds of problems an AD could face: One was a simple ‘crisis;’ the other was a much more serious ‘Jesus crisis!!’ Of course, we had plenty of both, and Jim often came up with the solution we needed.
"I hated to leave Ohio State in 1988; it was a rare privilege to serve Buckeye athletics, and it was the best job I ever had. But, if nothing else, my resignation paved the way for Jim to finally become athletics director at the university he so loved.
"My heart goes out to his wife Linda and the rest of the Jones’ family. Jim Jones was a Buckeye treasure and will be missed by all who knew him.