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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Jones must put foot down on fighting

 •  UH 'embarrassed' by fight
 •  Hawai'i Bowl will always have a spot for Warriors

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Anytime a college football team finds itself fighting more often than Mike Tyson, there is a problem.

And, over the past 13 months, sadly, the University of Hawai'i has seen more postgame free-swinging action on the field than Tyson has in the ring.

First there was the ugly brawl at the conclusion of last season's Cincinnati game. And now, as the endless television replays can't help but remind us, there was the fight with Houston after the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

It is time — past time really — to make sure there won't be another one next season or in subsequent years.

These are national embarrassments the school, the state and team don't need and shouldn't be revisited with.

It is time for head football coach, June Jones, to do what he should have done after the last one and say in strong, unmistakeable tones backed by action that it ends here and now.

It is time for him to view the tapes and mete out a suspension or meaningful punishment to every player who threw an offensive punch, stomped on an opponent or swung a helmet.

And if he doesn't see the necessity and urgency in it, it is up to someone who calls the shots at UH to drive home the point.

It is time for Jones to say that the state should expect more than it has been getting in these incidents and take the kind of responsibility that comes with his position by ensuring they don't happen again.

For it is the head coach who sets the tone for his players. It is the head coach they look to not only set the offensive personality but the character of the team.

When he returned to UH, Jones brought with him a lot of the NFL and the professional mentality. Much of it, like not overworking players, has allowed UH to limit injuries and has been refreshing.

But what works with 25-and 30-year-olds, especially in the areas of giving them a lot of personal responsibility and assumed maturity, doesn't always take with 18-and 20-year-olds who don't have paychecks hanging in the balance.

We saw evidence of that early in the season with too much taunting, too much showboating and too many personal fouls at Nevada-Las Vegas.

That night Jones waded out onto the field and made a stern point: Knock off the fighting and trash-talking and play the game. And, for several games, everybody was on the same page.

This same type of statement was needed against Houston.

Certainly UH was egged on to some degree by Houston, which also trash-talked and took some cheap shots. Maybe it even began with the Cougars in pre-game warmups, as UH coaches have charged.

And, the officials should have done a better job taking control of the situation and handing out punishment.

But by this point, UH players should know better than to get caught playing that game. And, if they didn't, they should have been reminded early on and firmly. It was up to the coach to see the message got across.

Instead, the first two personal fouls called in the game, both in the first nine minutes, were on UH.

Hawai'i has a world-ranked flyweight in Brian Viloria. Let's leave the nationally televised fights to him.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.