It was a season to believe.
And now there is only disbelief, anger and frustration.
University of Hawaii Warriors fans held out hope that June Jones would stay in Hawaii.
But that hope was shattered this morning with the confirmation that Jones took the head coaching job at Southern Methodist University.
“I was so damn sure things would turn around and June would not leave,” said Ben Yee, vice president of UH football booster club Na Koa. “There are two fools in this. One, we lost a coach. Second, the reason for losing the coach means we need to lose someone else,” referring to UH athletic director Herman Frazier.
Jones traveled to Dallas over the weekend to meet with SMU officials. That touched off a stampede of e-mails and other correspondences from Hawaii fans urging him to stay.
Fans had hoped Jones was prolonging signing a contract with SMU as leverage to get UH officials to agree to 19 points he told friends UH administrators have not dealt with in regards to athletic facilities and other issues.
Some fans said losing Jones, the winningest coach in UH history, is a huge loss to the entire state, and others sharply criticized UH athletic director Herman Frazier for not making an offer sooner.
Mike Kim, 49, of Punchbowl, who traveled with thousands of other Hawaii fans to New Orleans to watch the Sugar Bowl, said he believes the university administration made a mistake by not making an offer sooner.
“It’s the worst thing that could happen to UH,” Kim said at a team autograph signing session at Kahala Mall yesterday. “He built it up so big — we’re at the peak of our program — and to let it fall is an absolute travesty.”
Fans said the university administration needs to learn a lesson from losing Jones.
Many believe the Warriors head coach of nine years is leaving not because of money — UH offered $1.5 million a year to counter SMU’s proposal of at least $1.7 million — but because of growing frustration that there weren’t any improvements in the athletic department, including unanswered demands to upgrade facilities and higher pay for his assistant coaches.
Kelley Oshiro, 47, of Ewa Beach, planned to hold a grassroots rally this morning in front of Bachman Hall on the Manoa campus to urge officials to redouble their efforts to get Jones to stay. Instead, the rally was to focus on continuing Jones’ fight.
“We need to continue to ride whatever momentum is left to create change,” Oshiro said. “It’s too little too late for coach Jones. But we have to continue to believe our athletic program can move forward.
“It should have never come to this,” she added.