By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
An excruciating 71-day search confirmed the philosophical transformation when Orsini hired Jones, fresh off leading underdog Hawaii to an undefeated season and the Sugar Bowl. SMU? A team that hasn't been to a bowl since 1984? Landing one of the hottest coaching commodities in college football? How in the name of Doak Walker did this happen?
Simple. Some liaison work by former Mustang star Eric Dickerson and a financial commitment from 20 boosters to make Jones the 15th-highest-paid coach in America, higher even than Texas A&M's Mike Sherman. Alerted to the public disgust of Dickerson and former Pony Express partner Craig James, Orsini and Doherty visited Eric in Los Angeles last summer. His confidence in SMU restored, Dickerson later received a call inquiring about the Mustangs' job from an old NFL acquaintance—June Jones.
"I wish I could take credit for pinpointing June," Orsini shrugs, "but, through Eric, it was him that approached us."
The coup wouldn't have been possible, however, if not for the uncanny salesmanship of Steve Orseesneeds.
It took him only three weeks to assemble the "Circle of Champions," a prestigious conglomeration of rich folk led by Gerald J. Ford and Carl Sewell, each pledging $100,000 a year for five years to foot the bill for Jones' five-year, $10 million contract.
"Was I leaping off the cliff? Sure," Orsini says. "But you know what? I never once got turned down."
Welcome back, SMU. We missed you.