All signs point to Jones’ run at UH ending
Watching June Jones hug each of his players after the Sugar Bowl loss was eerily similar to his farewell in his last game as head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
That occurred at the end of the 1998 season in a crowded locker room following the Chargers' overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals, his final snap from center in the National Football League.
On that night, players like Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau were obviously saddened that Jones, who had replaced a fired Kevin Gilbride during the season, was moving on as the next head football coach for the University of Hawaii.
Jones realized he was closing the chapter on that part of his life and was unabashedly shedding tears as many of the Chargers said goodbye to their coach and wished him luck in his new venture in the island chain. That night, several said they believed Jones would be a success at that level and would revive a program that was more Division II than anything else.
It was an emotional setting, one you wouldn't expect in professional sports, but it was obvious the mutual respect Jones and his players shared, despite the disappointing loss that ended the season.
Fast forward to the night of the Sugar Bowl and it became apparent that Jones wasn't only consoling his players for giving it their all in the 41-10 loss to Georgia; it appeared he was closing another chapter in his career as well.
Seeing it firsthand all those years ago, I mentioned it to beat writer Dave Reardon later that night that I had a feeling Jones just might be moving on after all. His demeanor was exactly the same as it was at that San Diego game. Even the players he met in that intimate setting in the bowels of the Sugar Bowl seemed to sense something was different about their head coach, who had led them in so many battles through the years.
OF COURSE, it's possible Jones was only saddened his team couldn't complete a 13-0 season. It's possible his love for the seniors, Colt Brennan included, had him feeling the way he did. Losing by 31 points and coming oh so close to achieving a dream, only to see it dashed on the playing field, can leave a coach saddened and deflated.
But after watching what has unfolded the past few days -- including junior wideout Davone Bess opting to skip his senior season and Jones heading to Dallas for an interview with SMU -- you get the feeling the end is near.
Bess may have decided to declare early long before Jones' unclear contract situation came to light. In his mind, the numbers he has produced at this level are not going to get any better next season. With Colt Brennan gone and the offense in transition, it might be best to get out now.
But it also might signal that he knows something we don't. Jones may be leaning toward a new opportunity. He's tired of banging his head against the shower stall for every bar of soap. Upper campus might be just as tired of dealing with all the negative publicity generated nationwide by Brennan's pleas for better facilities.
There don't seem to be any donors out there willing to part with the millions needed to upgrade the athletic department. And with so many deficiencies campus-wide, it's possible the new chancellor has so many problems on her plate, Jones doesn't rise to the top of the menu.
If that's the case, then say adios to Mr. Jones and blame it on a statewide system of indecision that has plagued not only the football program, but everything else the do-nothing legislature has touched since Hawaii became a state.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org