RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii head football coach June Jones, shown at a Sugar Bowl press conference in New Orleans, could become Southern Methodist University's new football coach as early as today.
Jones heads for Dallas, likely for good
UH's offer to keep him coaching the Warriors could be a matter of too little and too late
STORY SUMMARY »
This may be June Jones' last day as Hawaii football coach.
Jones was scheduled to arrive in Dallas today, where he will interview for the vacant head coaching job at Southern Methodist.
Meanwhile, last-ditch efforts to keep Jones at the Warrior helm continued. They include a salary offer of more than $1.1 million per year.
SMU is offering between $1.7 million and $2 million per year.
Jones, 54, is the winningest coach in UH history, with a nine-year mark of 76-41, including a 12-0 regular season in 2007. Hawaii is ranked an unprecedented 10th in the nation, but will drop significantly in the polls after Tuesday's 41-10 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Reports that Jones had resigned yesterday were erroneous, but he did send letters to friends saying he intended to do so. UH athletic director Herman Frazier said he hadn't received a resignation notice from Jones.
Jones reportedly recommended five candidates to replace him: Duane Akina, Norm Chow, Kevin Gilbride, Cal Lee and Dick Tomey.
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June Jones was scheduled to arrive in Dallas this morning for a round of interviews with Southern Methodist University officials. He could become the Mustangs' new football coach as early as today.
Jones remained the Hawaii coach yesterday, as UH athletic director Herman Frazier said he had not been notified that Jones was resigning. Jones, though, had sent an e-mail to a few friends saying he was planning on leaving the Hawaii job, and the nine-year UH coach also had drafted a resignation letter -- which was not sent to UH, according to a close friend of Jones'.
"My understanding is that he wanted to go to SMU, have a conversation in person with them, do his interviews, look them face-to-face and make a decision," said Jones' friend Artie Wilson.
By yesterday afternoon, several local news outlets had gotten word of the correspondence, and at least one took it to mean Jones had made his decision, and reported he had resigned from UH.
ESPN and the Associated Press picked up the erroneous story.
"(The letter's) gotten out now and people are using it for their own benefit as a 'Get Herman' thing," Wilson said. "The worst part is that it doesn't help us to keep June."
SMU athletic director Steve Orsini said the Mustangs had not hired a new coach yesterday to replace Phil Bennett, who was fired in October.
Jones was not available for comment yesterday.
If Jones is hired by SMU, he is expected to agree to a five-year contract at an annual salary of between $1.7 million and $2 million. He would try to resurrect the SMU program that went 1-11 last season and has never fully recovered from the NCAA "death penalty" causing it to not field a team in 1987 and 1988.
Jones, 54, is at the end of a five-year contract at Hawaii that pays him $800,000 per year, plus incentives.
Frazier said yesterday that he had tendered two offers in recent days to Jones and his agent, Leigh Steinberg. The first was for $1.1 million and the second "considerably more," said Frazier, who declined to reveal the amount.
But it is probably too little, too late.
Jones and Steinberg have said Jones was more interested in facility improvements, higher pay for his assistant coaches and other support for the program. Jones' correspondence with his friends included 19 points of "things that have not been dealt with" by the UH administration.
On Friday, Jones spent time with close friends who tried to get him to consider remaining at UH.
"He's very torn, just torn. He really doesn't want to leave," said Don Murphy, past president of the Na Koa football booster club.
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian said he's disappointed if Jones is leaving, but also happy for him.
"Anyone who questions him for leaving for the opportunity, that's selfish on their part," Elimimian said. "At the same time, I'll miss him. It will be a lot different. I'm not happy, but I'm not upset with him."
Elimimian, the team's leading tackler in 2007, will be a senior in the fall. He said he plans to remain a Warrior.
"I hope the university does everything it can to keep him, and I definitely want to stay," Elimimian said. "What I don't understand is why they waited a year to offer him a contract."
UH fans -- who were ecstatic last week as the Warriors prepared for the Sugar Bowl -- reacted with despair and disgust at Jones' probable departure.
"I won't be renewing my season tickets if he's gone," Tony Tyler said. "It ain't about the money (for Jones), it's about respect."
Meanwhile, some assistant coaches scrambled to reassure potential recruits while others didn't.
"What would you tell them? This year's class is just about shot," a coach said.