Tuesday, February 23, 1999
key to football
UH head football coachBy Paul Arnett
June Jones and his team get a
cool reception from the
public in a recent poll
The University of Hawaii football team isn't on the tip of enough tongues if a recent Honolulu Star-Bulletin/Hawaii News 8 poll is any indication.
While new head coach June Jones had a favorable rating of 29 percent and only 1 percent viewed him negatively, a whopping 71 percent were neutral or didn't recognize his name.
"I'm not sure how to respond to that because I don't know what to compare it to," Jones said last night. "I think there is apathy toward the UH program right now that I was hired to help change. The bottom line is winning and putting an entertaining product on the field."
Perhaps that would help raise the percentage of people who said they would be attending UH games in the fall. At this point, 18 percent are planning to go, while 81 percent said no.
"If that means about 20 percent of the people of Hawaii are planning to go to games, then that doesn't sound that bad," Jones said.
"Attendance wasn't good last year. I see a lot of enthusiasm in certain circles. People want to help get this thing turned around. But as I've said before, it's going to take some time."
Unlike previous coaches Bob Wagner and Fred vonAppen, who were fired by UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida, Jones will be given time to turn around the struggling football program that currently has the longest Division I losing streak at 18 games.
Jones was given a five-year contract by Yoshida, worth approximately $2 million. A little more than half of the people polled believed that it was too much; 29 percent said it was about right and 1 percent said it was too low.
"All I know is I turned down a guaranteed $3 million from the San Diego Chargers to come here and help save this program," Jones said. "We're at a point where football could die here over the next two or three years.
"I didn't come here for the money. I came here because I love Hawaii and don't want to see Division I football come to an end. I believe my staff and I can make a difference here."
One person Jones recruited to help make that difference was convicted felon Pisa Tinoisamoa, who is currently serving 270 days in a youth correctional facility for two counts of felony assault.
Jones knew he would take some heat recruiting Tinoisamoa, but believes the football standout is worth the risk. Pollsters disagreed, however. Only 18 percent agreed with the scholarship offer.
"I guarantee that most of the 72 percent who didn't think we should have recruited Pisa, would want me to give their sons a second chance," Jones said.
"We believe in this kid. We know the risks involved. But we want to help turn his life around."