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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Jones isn't doing us a favor

By David Shapiro

June Jones wants more than the $800,016 per year he'll get to coach the University of Hawai'i football team when his new contract takes effect.

It seems Jones also wants to be fitted for a halo.

He's forever perpetuating the notion that he's taking our money as a noble favor to Hawai'i and at great sacrifice to himself. He floated this conceit most recently in his unbecoming snit after the state Office of Information Practices ordered that terms of his contract be made public, treating him the same as any other state employee.

Our public records law was enacted long before Jones' arrival and mirrors sunshine regulations in other states. But Jones appears to believe the law was passed specifically to insult him. He likens the gravity of his petty problem to Hawai'i's crisis in public education.

Let's be honest. Jones is here because he's got a sweet deal, and all factors considered, he thinks Hawai'i is the best place for him to be. He's acting primarily in nobody's interest but his own.

So how about we ease up on the sanctimonious indignation and play some football?

Jones is an excellent coach who revived UH football after some dismal seasons. Critics question the priority football gets in a tough economy, but few dispute that Jones is worth what we pay him in today's coaching market.

Almost from the beginning of his current contract in 1999, Jones and his agent have encouraged speculation about interest in him by other colleges and the NFL.

Jones suggests he could have earned up to $10 million more by coaching elsewhere in the last four years.

This bears further examination.

Since 1999, Jones has a 31-20 record playing in the WAC, a third-tier conference. Yes, a few coaches at top colleges make up to $2 million a year, but they're contending for national championships, filling bigger stadiums and bringing in many times more revenue than the UH program. Most of those coaches would have good reason to fear for their jobs if they lost 20 games in four years.

To get that kind of money in the NFL, Jones would have to consistently deliver big winning seasons, a track record he never really established in his previous tries as a pro coach.

In Hawai'i, Jones isn't burdened by such crushing expectations. We tolerate the 20 losses and are satisfied if he merely contends in the WAC and occasionally takes his team to a minor bowl game.

Heck, his current salary sets a baseline expectation of only six wins a year — a .500 record. Anything over that and he gets a bonus of $17,500 per win. In the programs that pay the bigger salaries, he'd be run out of town if he won only six games.

We mostly accept his excuses for failing to fill Aloha Stadium, even though the 15,000 empty seats each week raise obvious questions about whether there's really enough public interest in UH football to justify the luxury of an $800,000-a-year coach.

Jones has virtually absolute job security here for as long as he likes at a salary that's double the average of other top WAC coaches.

Jones does a fine job and he's a natural fit for Hawai'i given his longstanding ties. There's certainly no reason to begrudge him his money, but there's also no reason to fiddle a sad tune for him.

If he ever decides to take his services elsewhere, does anybody doubt that we could find another 31-20 coach for $800,000 a year?

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.