Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Saturday, February 16, 2002

Heat at UH is
bound to intensify

Now, the heat is on.

But on whom?

That's today's delicious question, that's what we'll find out in the days and weeks and months to come. For weeks now, we've waited to hear the latest in June Jones' contract renegotiations. Yesterday's Star-Bulletin broke the story: impasse. Two sides, a long way from each other, so far away, talks have halted. There is even open talk of Jones picking up and leaving UH.

This is jolting news, or at least it is when put out there for public consumption, as an actual, plausible possibility and not just a whispered concern.

And now here come the aftershocks. There are always aftershocks. News like this has to have aftershocks.

And perhaps -- just perhaps -- that is part of it. This is negotiation, after all. Just another step to getting talks started up again.

So now pause along with me, and let's see which way the wind is going to blow.

Will there be public outrage against UH for not coming up with a package that puts Jones among the 10 highest-paid coaches in the country to keep the 1999 national coach of the year?

Will there be a backlash against Jones for apparently asking for so much when it's not really about the money?

Will Leigh Steinberg be reviled for threatening to snatch away "our June" or admired for being a "superagent"?

This revelation could hurt somebody. The question now, is, who? Where is public opinion going to throw its support? What is the reaction going to be? Who is the bad guy going to be here?

We've already seen a concrete position change due to public opinion these last few weeks. Remember the camera vans?

It would be easy to imagine UH weathering a similar firestorm from Hawaii fans demanding that Jones be given whatever he wants in order to keep him.

But it might not be so simple. It might not sit well with some, especially if UH claims not to have the kind of big money that puts a coach in the top 10. We'll have to wait and see if that backfires.

It's a giant game of Good Cop/Bad Cop. Jones says he loves Hawaii, this is where he wants to be. Steinberg hints if things don't come together, Jones could opt out early.

At UH, the Good Cop's role is sure to go to one Evan Dobelle. The role of the heavy -- whether he really is or not -- may fall on Hugh Yoshida's shoulders.

And if everyone stands firm, and the money doesn't appear (and if it doesn't after putting 72 points on BYU when would it?), then what else is there to do? Maybe Jones really will walk, and the fairy tale might end there.

And then there will be plenty of blame to go around. More, even, than there is now.

But you don't need to worry about that today. This is just part of the process, and Steinberg says Jones has guaranteed another year, and UH says he promised Dobelle two.

All this did was turn the pressure up a notch. On whom, we're waiting to see.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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