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Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Friday, June 20, 2003


Investment worth it
if Jones can fill the stands


GOOD for him. Isn't that the first reaction? It's about time June Jones' contract got done. It's about time that this is behind us, that he's signed up and locked up for good, that now we don't have to worry about this any more. It's nice to hear that the bulk of this king's ransom is going to be paid for by fat cats, and not yours truly.

And then the numbers sink in. Over half a million a year. Probably more. Maybe $800,000? Zoinks!

We knew this was coming. We've known that Jones' raise was coming, and that he deserved it, that it was ridiculous to sit through so long a wait. That this needed to get done. We've known this is what it costs to employ a Division I football coach these days.

We've known Hawaii's national profile has never been higher, and all of the credit goes to Jones.

Still, it's a bit of a shock to the system, all of a sudden. The potential numbers. We can't help it, some of us. This is still Hawaii. This is still the University of Hawaii. This is still the WAC.

That's a lot of cash to be the football coach at UH. Not a bad job if you can get it.

Points to Herman Frazier. Points for getting this done, for apparently finding some rich guys to take care of the balance. For successfully negotiating what looked, a year ago (look it up), to be a surefire minefield with the Steinberg marketing situation. Smooth.

Points to Jones? Sure. He takes an enormous raise to do his dream job. This man is my new, improved hero.

Jones is getting it done, probably more so than even he dreamed, when he took over this 0-12 swamp. But now that chapter is officially closed, with this new contract.

This isn't a reward as much as it's an investment.

Not as much about the past as it is the future.

This is big-time money, and it seems officials are banking that with Jones, Hawaii has a chance to be big-time. (Or at least a lot bigger-time than it is now.)

Coaches don't get paid big money for winning. Winning is unspoken, expected. Division III coaches win. High school coaches win.

Dick Tomey won, Wagner won, and Holmes, too.

Times are different now.

Mel Kiper Jr. never mentioned UH when Dick Tomey was coach. Then again, there was no Mel Kiper Jr. when Dick Tomey was coach.

Dick Tomey never won 10 games. Then again, Dick Tomey only had 11, then 12, tries.

And if Dick Tomey made this kind of cash, he might have his feet up right now (no, you're right, probably not).

Nowadays, college coaches are millionaires for reasons that reach far beyond the playing field. These days you can't just be Joe Coach.

These days you have to be June Jones.

Jones can do that. He's done it. (After all, he is June Jones.) But now he needs to find another gear.

Jones has won, and that's great. He's put Timmy Chang's face on ESPN.com, and that's tremendous, unbelievable just a few seasons ago. He's gotten guys drafted. Terrific. He's had his name mentioned for several other jobs. OK, fine.

He's put a nice lock-down on local recruiting. Absolutely perfect.

But now this contract says UH not only has to be a big deal on the national scale, but at home, too. Time to make Hawaii football the hottest ticket in town again. Time to wave the flag, rally the troops, take the state by storm.

Again.

Hawaii football has to matter, really matter. Again.

That's what those money boys are paying for. That's why coaches get salaries like this.

Hey, Jones is trying. He's raised it from the dead. He's got it rolling. But the stakes just got higher than simply beating Fresno State.

With a contract like this, he has to kick-start attendance. Even if he's doing it with both hands tied behind his back -- by free and pay-per-view TV, traffic snarls, tailgating restrictions and angry drunks in the stands acting like idiots. Doesn't matter. The bandwagon needs to get rolling. Big-money coaches come up with big-money plays.

They're betting on The Gambler, and it sounds like they're betting big.

Good for him. This is the kind of bet, the kind of pressure, Jones loves.

And make no mistake, there is pressure with this paycheck, this investment. If he answers it he's worth every dime.



See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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