Full Court Press


Monday, December 24, 2001

Keeping Jones is just the
first step to Top 25

HEARING June Jones say to Jim Leahey last Saturday night that he still has unfinished business here must have been a relief to most Hawaii football fans after reports surfaced he had been offered the head coaching job at Georgia Tech.

Jones is either sincere that the island chain remains his final destination or is like Claude Rains in "Casablanca" when he closes Rick's Cafe because he's "shocked" to find gambling going on, only to pocket his roulette earnings moments later.

It's unlikely Jones was contacted by anyone at the hiring level at Georgia Tech, giving the story, as Jones put it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "absolutely no credence." And while that's probably true, that doesn't mean Jones' entourage is not shopping his name around a few days before Christmas.

As reported in the Star-Bulletin after the big victory over Fresno State, it's going to take a substantial salary increase and a commitment by the Hawaii administration to keep Jones interested in the Warrior program.

Contract negotiations are ongoing and while most lips are sensibly shut, there's enough information leaking out to give you some idea what Jones is seeking in his new contract. Money is part of it. He will likely ask for double is current salary.

And while UH can't pay a possible $750,000- to $1 million-a-year-deal, there are members of the community expected to step forward and pony up the cash necessary to keep Jones working in his third-floor office.

But that's only part of it. A salary increase alone is not enough to put Hawaii in the Top 25, one of Jones' goals as the Warriors' main man on campus. He needs a brighter and more imaginative supporting cast, and that includes the right people at the administrative level.

Whether Jones seeks to be the athletic director or have a firm hand in selecting a new one, it's apparent that he and UH president Evan Dobelle are moving in the same direction. Dobelle recently put the associate athletic directors on notice by giving them one year to do a better job or start looking for a new one next December.

That coincides with the final year of Hugh Yoshida's current contract, meaning the athletic director will likely fade into the sunset, associates in tow. That gives Jones and Dobelle time to make the proper hires in 2002.

They think Hawaii should aim high. Why not try on a new conference for size if ever anyone is interested in extending an invitation? Nothing wrong with making plans for a new stadium on campus, and in the meantime, see if there's any way the university can take control of Aloha Stadium to help defray costs.

Dobelle has said he has no better friend on the island than Jones. Both believe in the other's abilities. Both work well together. Both will have a hand in shaping Hawaii's future as a Division I program.

For that to happen, Jones has to sign on the dotted line.

Members of his current coaching staff will breath a collective sigh of relief once that's done. Some believe Jones still has an interest in the NFL if his current demands aren't met. His name is surfacing in Carolina and San Diego, where head positions will likely come open by season's end.

If Jones jumps ship, it's more likely it will be to the NFL than another collegiate position. There are outside considerations at play. Most of Jones' family has left the islands, giving him a reason to consider a mainland move.

But if UH meets Jones' expectations, sort of a closing act for Yoshida who is involved in the negotiations, then his dream of making Hawaii a viable football program remains on course for the foreseeable future.

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.
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