Archive for Monday, January 7, 2008

Hawaii coach pondering SMU job

Jones in Dallas trying to choose between two jobs

January 7, 2008

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— June Jones spent Sunday night trying to decide whether to accept an offer to coach SMU or return to Hawaii, where the governor is among those trying to keep him.

"It's been a wild day," agent Leigh Steinberg said. "I haven't seen anything like this before. It's emotionally wrenching for June."

Jones was in Dallas meeting with SMU officials and the search committee that has been working since late October to hire a replacement to Phil Bennett. Meanwhile, the folks on the island were doing all they could to get him to say no and continue leading a program he has guided to national prominence.

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle called to see what she could do, and the president who oversees the entire University of Hawaii system called with an updated contract proposal. It's the second in three days, but the first made by the school's overall leader.

The higher-ups aren't the only ones doing their best to lure Jones back.

"Yesterday when he was in Hawaii, June was visited by dozens of alums and fans, urging him to stay," Steinberg said. "He's received dozens of phone calls and e-mails telling him what he's meant to not only the school but the whole state, with personal stories that were poignant, heart-warming. ... It's a pretty interesting story from that standpoint. The whole state is energized to keep June."

Steinberg said Jones was planning on making a decision Sunday night.

"These programs need to know," he said. "It's time."

The paradise setting of Honolulu and a program coming off a BCS bowl would seem like no match for a school like SMU, where losing has been entrenched since receiving the NCAA's only death penalty in the late 1980s.

Yet Jones is always up for a challenge, as evidenced by his initial move to Hawaii, which was coming off a winless season, and he was coming off 12 years in the NFL.

SMU likely can provide a higher salary and - perhaps more importantly to Jones - a bigger budget and better facilities. He'd also have a more fertile recruiting base, albeit with the tradeoff of having more competition.

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