Yesterday I received a call from Doug Jones letting me know that he was retiring from his position as UCPS Director of Athletics effective April 1. I heard the words and thought, “maybe it’s an April Fools” ploy but I knew better.
Jones, an employee of the Union County Public School System since 1986, has been hinting at retirement over the last few years. The work is harder than most might think. Sure Doug has access to every county high school sporting event and chances are you have seen him at a majority of them over the last thirty-plus years.
This county has not seen a greater advocate of the student-athlete than Doug Jones but for all we see publicly there is another side to holding the Director of Athletics position of the sixth largest school system in North Carolina. The red tape, emails and late-night phone calls from parents and school administrators balance out the enjoyment of late afternoon softball games or Friday night football action.
Thirty-three years is a long-time but evidence of his dedication to Union County’s student-athletes. One has to have a life’s passion for such an endeavor. I mentioned in my podcast interview with Doug back in 2015, that few people do anything for that long and he replied, “I love what I do.”
I recall a few years back, Piedmont and Weddington’s baseball teams were playing for the state championships in two separate locations. Piedmont had an afternoon game in Zebulon, NC and Weddington’s night game was in Greensboro. He made both of them. That’s over 12 hours of dedication on a Saturday in May that spanned 380 miles of driving. He did not miss one pitch from either game.
This is just one example. There are countless stories of Doug’s travels to watch and support our student-athletes. Do you have a few days?
Doug has spent a lifetime in Union County. He graduated from Monroe High School and ultimately taught/coached at Piedmont, Monroe, Sun Valley & Parkwood high schools. He has been the Director of Athletics since 2009. Jones will spend his final two months in his office off of Lancaster Avenue in Monroe in the same room that he spent as a fourth grader in elementary school.
It has come full circle for the man self-described as a problem-solver. The problem now? It’s UCPS searching to find a replacement with such passion and outward dedication as Jones has demonstrated during his tenure.
I mean where else today can you find a person that returns a call, email or text within minutes? That’s Doug, a prompt response is guaranteed like clockwork. Actually, not hearing from him soon after an inquiry would raise concern with thoughts of contacting authorities about his welfare.
Plus, good luck finding a man or woman with high ethical standards in a time when so many other schools and districts are playing outside the boundaries of right and wrong. UCPS Athletics has been spared bad press and cries of “foul play” thanks due in large part to Jones’ oversight, knowledge, experience and doing the right thing. Doing the right thing has produced unbelievable results.
In Jones’ 10-year tenure as Director of Athletics, the championship numbers are staggering. In the last 10 years, UCPS has won 64 NCHSAA team state championships, 49 seconds and 77 thirds. Individually, well over 150 state championships. UCPS student-athletes, coaches and schools all producing incredible results under Jones’ watchful eyes.
Tonight, I for one am happy that I am not a part of the decision-making process to find a replacement for the position of UCPS Director of Athletics. Tonight, I am happy for my friend, Doug Jones. Happy that he gets to leave on his terms in good health and well-being. Doug, on behalf of a grateful county-thank you for everything.