By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Jackson is a 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive lineman from Lakewood, California, who could have played almost anywhere, including LSU, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Texas Tech. He was lured to SMU by Dallas' vitality and Jones' enthusiasm, arriving at SMU one day after his high-school graduation.
Three weeks later, after familiarizing himself with the city and his new team, he was told by SMU's admissions committee that he wasn't smart enough—not good enough. Justification be damned, reneging on scholarships is a suicidal reputation for a school to be burdened with on the recruiting trail.
"I could've gone to a bigger school but I chose SMU because I really liked it here. It's embarrassing," Jackson said last week. "The coaching staff did everything they could, I believe that. I just got caught up in the battle here, I guess."
"Yeah," Jackson clarified. "The battle between the football program and the school. It's pretty ugly."
In limbo for three days while scrambling for another school, Jackson was surprised when Turner asked to meet with him. According to Jackson, Turner back-tracked and described him as "an exception," urging him to attend one semester at a local junior college to assure being welcomed back to SMU.
Jackson's response after being discarded in the clusterfuck? He plans to enroll at UCLA.
Hall, a cornerback from Brenham who will now play baseball at UT-San Antonio, was also an NCAA qualifier that SMU ultimately rejected. And it took offensive lineman Ben Gottschalk—who was accepted by Ivy League member Penn, for crying out loud—two appeals to earn admission on the Hilltop.
Said Turner at Jones' introductory press conference in '08, "We certainly intend to have a lot of people attracted to coming here. We've made changes in the admission process. We have a nationally competitive student admissions process."
Now, just beneath the apparent fallacy of a unified front, Turner and Jones are waging a tug-of-war for control of SMU's class and classrooms. In this corner, a faculty that refuses to compromise its intellectual integrity. And in this corner, a football program cherishing W's as much as A's.
It's always treacherous, this collegiate marriage of athletics and academics. And with SMU and June Jones, divorce—or at least an estranged relationship—is suddenly a possibility even before the honeymoon is over.