STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
UH football coach June Jones, shown here at a Sugar Bowl news conference, has yet to decide on his future.
The waiting game
June Jones remains undecided about his coaching future at UH
STORY SUMMARY »
If you're a June Jones and University of Hawaii football fan, you have to like this omen: The Warriors were 2-0 in overtime games this season, while Southern Methodist was 0-2.
What looked like a runaway win for SMU in a battle for Jones' coaching services turned into a dead heat last night as the ninth-year UH coach struggled in his decision to remain at Manoa or pack up for a permanent move to Dallas.
Jones was undecided late last night Hawaii time and early this morning in Texas, where Jones interviewed yesterday.
It seemed like a done deal that Jones would sign up with the Mustangs, until a last-ditch effort including e-mails from fans, phone calls from Gov. Linda Lingle and other state officials and an offer from UH addressing Jones' nonsalary concerns turned the tide.
Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg, said he did not know what would happen, but "my personal take is to advise him to do what will make him happy."
FULL STORY »
After all was said and done yesterday, June Jones decided ... to sleep on it.
The man who led University of Hawaii football from national laughingstock to unprecedented heights was still the Warriors coach last night after a day of interviews with SMU officials. Jones also received some Texas-size hospitality from Mustang boosters, but it was at least equaled by a long-distance outpour of aloha from all levels of Hawaii society, from everyday fans to Gov. Linda Lingle.
Jones -- expected to sign with the Mustangs yesterday -- kept his options open.
"Frankly, I think that (Jones') lean and intention was to go ahead and take the new post," Jones' longtime agent and friend, Leigh Steinberg, said. "I think it was headed in that direction. I think all of the communications (from Hawaii) in the last couple of days has made an impact and caused pause."
And it was not just sentiment -- Steinberg, who is in Dallas with Jones, said a third proposal in the last four days came from UH to try to keep his client at Manoa. This one addressed facilities and other infrastructure questions that caused the nine-year Warriors coach to look elsewhere in the first place.
"We're less concerned with June's salary than we are about having a viable support system for the players and coaches to have a better chance at continued success," Steinberg said. "We received a letter with a general statement that addresses that, with examples of what would be done."
The latest salary offer from UH yesterday was $1.5 million, nearly twice Jones' current annual pay.
Steinberg said the examples included improvements to the football offices and practice field.
Lingle spoke with Steinberg for 15 minutes yesterday, and she also left a message on Jones' cell phone last week offering her support.
If this were a football game, Hawaii seemed hopelessly behind SMU at the start of the day. But government and UH officials talked to Steinberg while Jones went through his interview process. Negotiations became a collaborative effort on UH's end, with UH President David McClain participating.
Jones was scheduled to sign on as the SMU skipper at 1 p.m. Hawaii time, but what was described as a "snag" came up and Jones' acceptance of a five-year offer at between $1.7 million and $2 million per year was postponed.
Later, Steinberg said Jones was "still deciding" between SMU and UH.
"My own take on this is that I urged June to go to Hawaii from San Diego (in 1999, when Jones left the NFL to take the UH job)," Steinberg said. "I'm not about maximizing compensation; I'm about making (Jones) happy."
UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw is also part of the effort to keep Jones with the Warriors.
"We all want Coach Jones to remain at the University of Hawaii at Manoa," she said. "So President McClain, Herman Frazier and I have been in continued discussions with Coach Jones and his agent to provide the best incentives for him to remain here, including both financial and nonfinancial matters."
Jones is the winningest coach in UH football history, with a career mark of 76-41. His teams are 4-2 in bowl games. Hawaii has had seven winning seasons under Jones, including two Western Athletic Conference championships.
In 1999, Jones' first season, Hawaii went 9-4, including a victory over Oregon State in the Oahu Bowl. It represented the biggest turnaround in college football history after the 0-12 season, and Hawaii snapped a 19-game losing streak.
Hawaii is ranked a school-record 10th in the major polls, although the Warriors' final rating will drop after their 41-10 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl last Tuesday.