SMU ponying up big bucks
June mulling an offer from Mustangs that would pay up to $2 million
The greatest moment in University of Hawaii football history -- the Warriors' appearance in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday -- was a time of great excitement for UH football fans, who appeared in droves in New Orleans.
That was just four days ago.
Now, in the aftermath of UH's 41-10 loss to Georgia, the mood is quite different as the Warriors appear to be on the verge of losing their leader, ninth-year head coach June Jones.
Jones was scheduled to fly to Dallas today and meet with officials at SMU. The Mustangs have offered Jones a contract worth up to $2 million a year to take over the once-proud program that has had just two winning seasons since 1989.
UH, where Jones gets paid $800,000 per year, has made two counter-offers that don't match the salary offered by SMU.
Jones has repeatedly said his heart is in Hawaii. But multiple sources have said Jones' moving on is all but a done deal due to continual frustrations with the UH infrastructure.
If Jones does leave, some of his current assistants will join him. A move would also wreak havoc with the current UH recruiting class.
Warriors junior slotback Davone Bess -- the leading touchdown-scorer in school history -- signed with an agent yesterday and made himself available for the NFL Draft. He will likely by joined in the coming days by his running mate at the other slot, Ryan Grice-Mullins, also a junior ready to declare for the draft.
June Jones at Hawaii
Hawaii head football coach June Jones' year-by-year record at the University of Hawaii:
||beat Oregon State in Oahu Bowl, 23-17
||lost to Tulane in Hawaii Bowl, 36-28
||beat Houston in Hawaii Bowl, 54-48
||beat UAB in Hawaii Bowl, 59-40
||beat Arizona State in Hawaii Bowl, 41-34
||lost to Georgia in Sugar Bowl, 41-10
Friends try to get Jones to stay at UH
They're hoping it wasn't the last supper.
Close friends of June Jones and the University of Hawaii football program dined with the UH coach last night, trying to get him to consider remaining at the helm of the Warriors.
Close to 8 million watched Sugar Bowl
Television ratings for the Sugar Bowl ranked third among New Year's Day games with a 7.9 mark, translating to roughly 8 million viewers tuning in to watch Hawaii's 41-10 loss to Georgia.
The Rose Bowl between USC and Illinois was first with a 12.0 in Tuesday's overnight ratings. The Capital One Bowl drew a 9.9 rating for Michigan's win over Florida.
Those were followed by the Sugar Bowl, Outback Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Tennessee, 3.63), Cotton Bowl (Missouri vs. Arkansas, 3.4), and Gator Bowl (Virginia vs. Texas Tech, 2.5).
UH's appearance in the Sugar Bowl was its first in a BCS game.
Today, Jones was scheduled to fly to Dallas and meet with officials at Southern Methodist. Jones was to officially receive an offer to coach the Mustangs of Conference USA at up to $2 million per year.
Since his return from the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday -- and, according to some, before -- the word has been that Jones is leaning heavily toward moving to the Big D and leaving what he had described as his dream job.
One friend of Jones said he is "90 percent" convinced that he will take the offer to get away from frustrations at UH. Another person close to him said he'd place the odds at 50-to-1 that Jones would go to SMU rather than remain at Manoa.
Hawaii officials, including athletic director Herman Frazier and president David McClain, have met with Jones over the past two days.
UH has tendered two offers to Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg. The first offer was $1.1 million per year in salary, the second, made yesterday, was "considerably more," a source said.
"There is indeed an offer out there and we think it's competitive," McClain said. "It's designed to be competitive. SMU has considerable resources and we understand that. We feel we can be competitive."
"We did (receive an offer from UH on Thursday) and analyzed it," Steinberg said. "June has been in a thought process for a number of days."
Jones is paid a salary of $800,000 per year at UH, with half of it coming from private sources. His contract ends June 30. He went through a process yesterday to get permission to seek other opportunities before the end of the contract.
Jones and Steinberg have repeatedly said salary is not the key issue. Commitment to building new facilities and other resources are Jones' priority, Steinberg said.
While many considered Jones' leaving a done deal yesterday, his agent didn't.
"I can say we've been in discussions with SMU, and that nothing is resolved with SMU," Steinberg said.
SMU, which fired Phil Bennett during the season, scheduled a news conference for Monday.
Jones would leave as the winningest coach in school history, with a 76-41 record, with winning marks in seven of his nine seasons. His crowning achievement is the just-completed regular season -- a 12-0 mark, and unprecedented achievements of an outright WAC championship, No. 10 ranking nationally, and the program's first appearance in a BCS bowl game.
One of the few downers of the season was the Warriors' 41-10 loss to No. 4 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Another, for UH fans, is the possible loss of the coach that got the program there.
"This whole thing didn't have to happen," said Artie Wilson, a close friend of Jones. "We didn't have to get to this point. There was plenty of opportunity to address a contract extension and nothing was done."