Despite success, Jones’ options limited
IF June Jones' future is based on money, then the University of Hawaii is wasting its time trying to keep the most successful coach in school history here in the island chain.
Without a serious off-the-field commitment from local brokers, the school can't even match the supposed offer of Southern Methodist University, much less any top-flight Division I program that might come a calling somewhere down the road.
But let's take a reality check here for a moment, before school officials try to figure out how it can possibly balance the books, improve the facilities campus-wide and pay a million-plus to a coach who may never reach this pinnacle again.
First of all, just how much demand is there for Jones on the collegiate scene? He was never seriously mentioned as a replacement at Michigan, West Virginia, Texas A&M, UCLA or any other big-time college job that opened recently -- and this despite finishing 23-4 the last two years at a school with a shoestring budget.
Local fans should think about that for a moment and realize that Jones might be the perfect fit here because he has so much autonomy in the athletic department. Where else could a coach go and be allowed to change the team's name, logo, school colors, what have you?
Imagine Jones trying a similar tactic at SMU -- a school that hasn't done much since being given the death penalty two decades ago, but still has a recognizable brand.
The NFL is an even bigger leap of faith. The Atlanta writers covering the Sugar Bowl laughed the Hawaii media out of the room when asked if Jones had any chance of landing a job with the lowly Falcons and drafting Colt Brennan to save the day. While what Jones has done here is truly remarkable, his run-and-shoot offense is as old fashioned at that level as a 1965 Mustang.
Given the fact Jones has only tweaked his offense over the years -- saying as much at the final Sugar Bowl news conference -- no NFL owner will allow Jones to come in and run the same offense he and Mouse Davis popularized decades ago. NFL defensive fronts are too good vs. an offense without a tight end.
SO WHERE DOES that leave Jones? If his love for Hawaii is as strong as he says it is, then there's no reason for him to wander off to a school like SMU to save the day. But if he is ready for a new challenge -- and let's face it folks, this is a difficult place to maintain the status quo of the last two seasons -- then Jones should try his hand at a new locale if someone is willing to give him that opportunity.
Jones is a competitor. If he does aspire to return to the NFL or make a run at another major college program, turning around one like SMU's gives him a better opportunity to do that than staying here.
It would be better for him to pull up stakes and head to Dallas in a state where there are more football players than cattle, than drift along waiting for another Brennan to drop in his lap. Recruiting here will always be a problem. Don't let that paradise label fool you. Most parents of blue-chip players don't want their children in a school thousands of miles away.
Local recruiting is a challenge as well because quality players here aspire to compete in conferences like the Pac-10. It is what it is, leaving Jones in a difficult spot. What can he do for an encore here? And can he do something similar at a school like SMU? If he wants to go, let him. If he wants to stay, then do a better job of improving the facilities around him to make it worth his while.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org