So why did June Jones leave Hawaii for SMU -- besides the money? Apparently, it had something to do with the carpet.
Yesterday at his press conference, typically a colorless affair, Jones veered from tradition and dumped a bit on the school he just left when he was asked to compare facilities. "There's absolutely no comparison," Jones said. At Hawaii, "the office that I sat in was the same office that Dick Tomey sat in in 1986. The carpet was the same ... You're talking about the NFL and a Pop Warner team."
It was a revealing comment. This morning I called Chad Nielsen, a friend of mine who has written two stories on Hawaii football for ESPN The Magazine to get his take on why Jones left a program that had just finished an undefeated regular season and played in a BCS bowl game for one that has stunk for about two decades. Nielsen says when he and Jones talked this summer for a cover story on quarterback Colt Brennan, the Hawaii coach had no intention of leaving the islands.
“He told me there wasn’t another college job he would leave for,” Nielsen says. “He told me what his dream job was, and I can’t say what that is, because it was off the record, but it wasn’t SMU. Maybe it is now.” Which brings us back to carpet.
Nielsen says that more than any thing else, Jones was frustrated with the crappy facilities at Hawaii and that he had to deal with things a Division I head coach should never have to worry about. Like setting up his own media interviews.
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“Their sports information office was run like a high school,” Nielsen said. “When we were scheduling interviews and photo shoots, we had to do it all through him. You could tell, you could hear in his voice, that he was frustrated that he had to deal with so many things related to the program that had nothing to do with coaching or football.
“I think there was some exhaustion with having to deal with menial scheduling tasks. He had built a top-tier program within an amateur environment, and you can only do that so long.”
Money and timing were obviously a factor, because chances are Jones would never have more negotiating power as Hawaii coach than he did after this season. And as Richie pointed out earlier today, he’s now the 15th highest-paid coach in college football, which is quite remarkable considering how bad SMU and Conference USA are.
“I think he’ll be a good fit there and he think he’ll be successful,” Nielsen says. “He’s got Texas as a recruiting base, and if he’s got money he can go to Hawaii and recruit there. He’s also a very religious man. He’s always dropping religious references, talking about his faith in the Lord. I don’t know that that factored in on a professional level, but on a personal level I think he’ll be comfortable there in Dallas.” --Jesse Hyde