Monday, January 07, 2008

By now you all have heard the news… Coach Watch Day 72.

That is right. It is true. General Joe’s Chopstix on Mockingbird is shutting down for good. General Joe’s chicken was a staple of mine on Sundays throughout the early 1990’s. In its place will be the finest coloring book collection this nation has ever seen.

Oh, and SMU hired a football coach!!!

The story broke in the weirdest of ways. The Honolulu Advertiser had an article that said Jones stopped taking calls late last night, which was linked to on the ponyfans message board. Then, all of a sudden, at around 10AM, the article changed to “Jones takes coaching job at SMU.” I called Brad Sutton, SID at SMU and he didn’t know what I was talking about. He looked at the website himself and said he would go find out. Turns out Jones’ assistants that were asked to come to SMU spilled the beans. And the rest is history.

One must say that in the last twenty years of SMU football, this day is pretty high on the list.

Press conference video

Press conference summary

Press conference quotes

Ticket interview summary

The press conference was packed with SMU fans. Easily ten time the people that were at the Matt Doherty press conference. They even had an overflow room. And they needed it. There was a lot of excitement in the room. It was nice to feel optimism among the SMU crowd. I can’t think of the last time I felt that kind of optimism. Certainly not in the last twelve months. Turner and Orsini were positively giddy. OK. That isn’t fair. We all were.

Anyway, this is my first impression of Jones. Jones has complete confidence in his abilities, his system, his assistants. Far more so that Bennett ever showed in his first press conference. You get the sense that June Jones is here to turn this thing around and there is absolutely zero possibility that he will fail.

I still maintain that at some point over the last 72 days, the search was not going well. It would be interesting to know exactly who was spoken to about this job. Somehow, I doubt we ever know. I said all along that just because the search may not be going well, it doesn’t mean that SMU won’t get a great coach. In the end, I should have stuck to my first comments about the search. At the end of the day, with everyone wondering who will take this awful, awful job, just like the athletic director search and the basketball coaching search, the answer will be someone better than any one of us have a right to expect.

Weirdest person in attendance: Channel 8 film critic Gary Cogill. Cogill apparently grew up with June Jones. Who knew?

One does feel for Hawaii under the circumstances. They don’t want our pity; they want somebody’s head on a stick. And it appears that Hawaii athletics director Herman Frazier will soon have his head lopped off.And with good reason. Jones is at SMU because this guy apparently doesn’t know how run an athletic department and Steve Orsini does. Think about that. One of the most inept programs over the last twenty years stole the master of one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history from his alma mater.

University of Hawaii President went so far as to apologize:

Finally, I also want to apologize to our fans and all of Hawaii for matters getting to this stage in the first place. Exceptional performance deserves exceptional recognition, and your University was slow to step up.

Dude. Obviously, this was important to Hawaii. The Governor got involved. I kind of feel bad. Maybe SMU should offer Herman Frazier a job or something. We owe him a lot.

Questions we all have:

1) Staff. Jones extended invitations to all of his staff to join him at SMU. It is unclear how many will take those offers. At least three have already accepted: DC Greg McMackin, QB Coach Dan Morrison and running backs coach Wes Suan. There is some talk that linebackers coach Cal Lee will be named as head coach of Hawaii (he was one of five coaches suggested to Hawaii by Jones). At some level, one would want Texas people to have some of the jobs and Jones said as much.

Ramon Flanigan was at the press conference. He has been an offensive coordinator before. He was a running QB in a run and shoot offense. I wonder if there is a place for him on this staff. Certainly could do worse.

2) Recruiting. It appears that Defensive Coordinator Greg McMackin is in town and will stay for the time being. Greg McMackin was former Big XII recruiter of the year of Texas Tech before going to the 49'ers and then to Hawaii. There was a report that a Hawaii radio station spoke with one Hawaii recruit who stated that he intended to go where June Jones went. At least four of Jones current Hawaii commitments are from Texas. Presumably, the first priority is to shore up current SMU commitments and then Hawaii commitments, then former SMU commitments, and finally non-committed players.

2A) Recruiting standards. I handed off my question to Kate; we will see if she asks Coach Jones about his 2003 comments on the SMU job. In the Dallas Morning News on November 13, 2003; June Jones said the following regarding Phil Bennett:

"I think Phil is on an island sometimes," Jones said. "He's going through some unfair requirements over there. He's not on the same playing field as the rest of us."

At the press conference Jones, Turner and Orsini said standards were nationally competitive. I have said for a while, I think standards are being used in part as an excuse. We will see. Let's start with the kid that already wants to switch his commitment.

3)Money. I don't know who is in the "Circle of Champions," but I bet they have good seats. Widely reported that it is 20 boosters that have committed $100,000.00 per year over the next five years. That is a big commitment and seems to be the focus of most of the media to this point-SMU got Jones because it threw a lot of money at him. Some SMU fans are taking umbrage at that. Why? SMU is a small school with a rocky past. You use your resources in the best way possible. That was done here. Never apologize.

4)Spring Game. Dude. Give it a rest. The Spring Game will probably be near the end of March and you should plan on attending. It should preview what I have to assume will be a record-setting year for SMU passing statistics. Barring injury, doesn't Willis have to set the single-season SMU passing record?

You, too, will be asked to "pony up." Walking out, I was handed a flier on season tickets for next year. You will get a discount with a Mustang Club contribution. (Typical SMU mind of mine immediately started thinking of the tax consequences of that benefit.) Probably a smart way of getting the rolls up and then they will hit us all up for larger contributions in later years. I am trying to find fault with this plan, but it seems pretty savvy at first look.

Finally, I don't know if Steve Orsini thinks I owe him an apology or not. Actually, I should not flatter myself to think he cares. I don't personally think I owe him one for anything I have said in this blog. But I do owe Steve Orsini an apology for losing faith somewhere between Day 1 and Day 72. Steve Orsini got SMU a great coach. This is Steve-O's day. So here is to you, Steve. Soak it up. I am sure we will find something to complain about soon.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Someone else can make it official, but I think it is a done deal.

Be very wary of AP news stories like this one. AP doesn't have its own reporters. This one is written by a Hawaii reporter. Just as likely that the Dallas Morning News story could get picked up next. Pay attention to the Dallas Morning News. Pay some attention to the Hawaii papers.

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.

I will say this, if the above linked article is accurate and Jones met with the search committee, it is all but over. SMU wins; Hawaii loses. Orsini would not have let Jones meet with the search committee unless it was a done deal.

I was told Friday, by one guy that June Jones was a 99% done deal.

I was told by another guy Friday that it looked promising.

I never posted anything, because I was waiting to hear from a specific person, who has still not contacted me yet.

On Saturday, I spoke with someone not associated with SMU but works in college athletics and knows quite a bit about coaches and coaching searches. He said, "You get June Jones on a plane and he is yours. The challenge should be getting him on the plane. I would have somebody escort him if I were you."

So today is Sunday and I know no more than you. I can say with 99% certainty that the first official word will be here.The other one percent: here. I have no desire to screw this up and be wrong and doubt I am going to hear anything before you.

Just my thoughts.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

June Jones says Thank You to the Warrior Nation...

Thank you for supporting our outstanding student-athletes during our 12-0 regular season, Western Athletic Conference Championship, and our first-ever appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game, the 2008 Allstate Sugar Bowl. These young men worked tirelessly during the course of the 2007 campaign in order to represent the entire state of Hawai`i in first-class fashion and I certainly could not be more proud of them.

It was my great honor to be associated with such a quality group of coaches and players. They demonstrated teamwork, sacrifice, grit, determination, unselfishness, humility, and an unrelenting commitment to success. Meanwhile, they were superior individuals off the field and represented Hawai`i with class, dignity, and honor.

I want to extend a special mahalo to the fans of Hawai`i. You were there for us during the course of the season and traveled with us in great numbers to New Orleans, making incredible personal sacrifices. That really touched our hearts in ways that can never be accurately communicated. The level of energy, excitement, and passion you demonstrated truly helped make this a wonderful experience for everyone involved.


June Jones
Head Coach

Notice what is missing? Any reference at all to next year. Also notice every reference to Hawaii football is in the past tense.

Just saying.

The Chancellor of the University of Hawaii says an offer is on the way.

But will it come in time?

This is from a release from UH today. The speaker is Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.

“I know that there is a great deal of interest in ensuring that June Jones remains here as our football coach – and that is definitely our goal as well. We truly appreciate his outstanding efforts in leading us to the Sugar Bowl and producing successful student-athletes. It has always been our intent to make Coach Jones a firm offer that will keep him here, and I want to assure everyone that Athletics Director Herman Frazier is moving expeditiously to do just that,” said Hinshaw.

Reading the Hawaii message board, one gets a sense that Hawaii fans really hate this AD Herman Frazier. I am just dumbfounded that Hawaii doesn't seem to have anything in place yet.

Coach Watch Day 67: First and last.

After winning the Fiesta Bowl, Bill Stewart will be named head coach of West Virginia.  That means that SMU, the first school to announce it was making a change will be the last school to actually hire a coach.


Read this to see how tense things are getting over at

I still maintain that the SMU coaching search is going badly.  I also still maintain that SMU can still get a great coach.  However, I will neither blindly proclaim the next head coach to be a great coach nor whitewash the process if SMU does get a quality coach.  But until told otherwise, like everyone else, I will keep my eyes on the Sandwich Islands and the head coach of the University of Hawaii June Jones.

When I read things like yesterday’s New York Times [] and the inability for June Jones and Hawaii to get basic football needs filled, I start to wonder if Hawaii even has the ability to keep him.

The major lingering issue for Jones’s future at Hawaii is not his salary, which is $800,000 a year and could be expected to increase. It is whether Hawaii, now that it has begun to benefit from playing big-time football, will commit to investing heavily in the program. The program’s football budget — $2.2 million — is more than $1 million less than that of its chief Western Athletic Conference rival, Boise State.

The Hawaii football facilities were described as “condemned” by quarterback Colt Brennan, who had to campaign through the news media to get soap in the locker room earlier this season. The Hawaii team videotaped practice for four years from a hand-held camera that Jones won at a golf tournament.

It isn’t that Hawaii isn’t capable of matching or coming close to matching any SMU offer (they may not be able to, but they may not have to).  It is that aside from the salary, it is the refusal to run Hawaii football like a top 25 program, whereas Steve Orsini wants SMU to be “top 25 in everything [it] does.”  Hawaii is capable of providing video equipment for the locker room, soap for the shower, a recruiting budget over $50,000.00, but they have achieved their success without it and the administration may not believe they have to.  To give June Jones the salary he deserves and the budget his program deserves, may be more than Hawaii thinks it has to do to be successful and Hawaii may ultimately balk at the price tag.  They may need to lose June Jones and lose a lot of football games before they think otherwise.

Another excellent article can be found in the Honolulu Advertiser [].

It confirms that today, June Jones is in Hawaii.  It also provides this money quote:

"In my opinion, and this is speaking out of turn, but June, to me, has to do what's best for June," UH offensive line coach Dennis McKnight said. "He has given so much. He basically saved a program that was floundering in the water, that was on life support in the life raft. He brought it to the summit of national prominence. It's a name. It's a logo. It's a school that people recognize.

"I know the way he's thinking and feeling and agonizing over this decision right now, that this is where his heart is. But at the same time, from a business standpoint, when you're talking money and a challenge, sometimes a competitor loves a challenge. I know it's going to be a tough deal, and a tough decision."

Listening to the radio this morning, it was the first thing discussed on the Ticket at 6AM.  They seem relatively astounded that SMU could land June Jones.  Stewart Mandell at understands what SMU sees in Jones but not what Jones would see in SMU.  The same can be said of basically every national college football sports writer in the country.  The people on the message board or around Dallas that would not be thrilled with a June Jones hire should be beaten with a stick.

Maybe June Jones is serious about SMU, but maybe he is just using SMU to get all of the Sugar Bowl payout money devoted to football.  I don’t know.  Today I will be positive.  I ran this morning with my iPod on “shuffle.”  “Peruna” was the first song it played.  It is a sign.  As I was coming home, “Pony Battle Cry.”  It is a sign.  Good things are going to happen today.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Coach Watch Day 66- Post-New Year?s Day Edition

Well, now that June Jones doesn’t have a job to do, we can start watching planes again.  If it isn’t Jones, I assume it has to be a hodgepodge of readily available coaches, former coaches and assistants.  I still have a hard time believing June Jones is leaving Hawaii, but I will put that aside for a moment.

Hawaii got rolled in the Sugar Bowl.  Would it have been cool if Hawaii won and June Jones became the SMU head coach?  Sure.  Does the loss mean anything?  No.  The Hawaii 31 point loss to Georgia wasn’t the biggest blowout of this year’s bowl season and wasn’t even the biggest point disparity of New Year’s Day.  I would have liked to have seen Hawaii be more competitive, but so what?  June Jones did what only Urban Meyer and Chris Petersen have done: taken a non-BCS team to a BCS bowl game.  Heck.  The list of coaches that haven’t taken a team to a BCS bowl game is pretty long and a lot of those coaches have been routed in bowl games, too.

June Jones now appears to be contemplating his future:

From the above article, there are a few things you should take away.  

First, June Jones’ contract has now expired, which is significant for a couple of reasons.  Coaches in the last year of their contracts is virtually unheard of in college athletics; the mere fact that it has gotten to this point between June Jones and Hawaii should raise questions about the true extent of the relationship between June Jones and his alma matter.  Also, because June Jones is no longer under contract, there is no buyout; June Jones can walk away from Hawaii for nothing.

Second, related to above, Jones and Hawaii haven’t even discussed a contract.  As much as Jones has complained about facilities, commitment, carpet in his office, pay for his assistants, can June Jones effectively negotiate a contract with a state school for both a raise and resolve these other issues?

Third, “Jones has said he will "disappear" for a week to contemplate his future. The team returns to Honolulu this afternoon, and Jones said he will spend time in Kona.”  This is both good and bad.  Bad in that Jones has, apparently, returned to Hawaii.  Logic dictates that June Jones isn’t going to take the SMU job without seeing the facilities.  While it is true Hawaii has played SMU in Ford Stadium while Jones was coach, that was in 2001.  It is good in the sense that he will spend some time away from the team to get this resolved.  The fact that this could also take another week to resolve itself is depressing.