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Jones and SMU are Hawaii Bowl option


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POSTED: Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ten years after reversing Hawaii's football fortunes, former Warriors head coach June Jones could return to Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve if he can produce a similar turnaround at SMU.

The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and Conference USA signed a one-year contract sending the league's championship game runner-up or a “;preferred selection team”; to the eighth annual game.

The deal was announced yesterday by ESPN Regional Television, which owns the bowl game.

Hawaii will participate in the game if the Warriors are bowl eligible. Otherwise another Western Athletic Conference school will fill the spot. The Warriors, who have played in the Hawaii Bowl five times, need to win at least seven games to qualify for the bowl.

“;We want to be able to control our own destiny by getting a preferred selection from Conference USA,”; said David Matlin, executive director of the Hawaii Bowl.

The arrangement gives the Hawaii Bowl greater security in a crowded field of 34 bowl games with a limited pool of at-large teams. There were 72 bowl-eligible teams for 68 berths last year and 71 in 2007. There were 67 eligible teams in 2005.

The preferred-selection clause in the contract leaves open the possibility of inviting Conference USA member SMU if the Mustangs are bowl eligible.

SMU went 1-11 last fall in Jones' first season in Dallas following a nine-year run at UH. His Hawaii tenure began in 1999 when Jones led the Warriors to a share of the WAC title and a berth in the Oahu Bowl after UH went 0-12 the previous year.

The Hawaii Bowl and Pac-10 agreed to void the last year of a two-year deal that would have given the bowl the league's seventh selection.

The Pac-10 produced six bowl-eligible teams in 2007 and five last year. With the Pac-10 unable to fill its spot last December, Notre Dame (6-6 at the time) filled the at-large berth and defeated Hawaii 49-21.

“;We have had a great relationship and some exciting bowl games with Conference USA teams. The possibility of not having an eligible Pac-10 team was very real,”; Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan said in a release. “;I think in the long run it is better for us to be matched up against a high-placed C-USA team than an at-large team.”;

Conference USA participated in five of the seven Hawaii Bowls since the game was established in 2002. The exceptions were in 2006, when Hawaii defeated Arizona State, and last year.