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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jones will give his assistants donation

Video: Warriors return to workouts

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.Com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

June Jones

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University of Hawai'i football coach June Jones will pay it forward.

A group of Hawai'i business leaders and UH supporters have pledged more than $100,000 as a gesture to thank and support Jones.

Jones, in turn, said he will give the entire amount to his assistant coaches and to improving the athletic department's deteriorating facilities.

"I want the money to go where it's needed," Jones said.

The nine-assistant coaching staff has received one across-the-board raise in nine years. UH's athletic facilities, which include a condemned Cooke Field infield, were sharply criticized during the Nov. 23 national telecast of the UH-Boise State game.

"I think that says an awful lot about the kind of guy June is," defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said. "That's a window into June. He's very generous to make a gesture like that."

Jones is in the final seven months of a five-year contract, in which he is paid $800,016 plus bonuses annually. Half of his salary is paid through donations.

Last week, the group, led by retired First Hawaiian Bank chairman Walter Dods, sought donors to each contribute $2,000 as a show of support for Jones. As of yesterday, the group reportedly received $114,000 in pledges.

"It's an awful strong statement by the people who recognize what he's done here," Reinebold said. "Really, when you consider everything, he's probably done the greatest coaching job of all time. You compare our budget to the budgets of schools we compete against, and you see he's done an amazing job. Look at the facilities and budgets he's had to overcome."

More importantly, Reinebold said, Jones saved the football program. In 1998, UH was 0-12 under Fred vonAppen. The next year, Jones' first as UH head coach, the Warriors finished 9-4, which, at that time, was the greatest turnaround in NCAA football history.

Under Jones, the Warriors have had seven winning seasons in nine years, qualifying for six postseason bowls. This year, the 12-0 Warriors are the only Division I-A team to produce an unbeaten regular season.

"Everybody talks about the great job the South Florida coach did in building a program," Reinebold said. "But June resurrected a program. If the program was a patient in the hospital, they would call the priest to give the last rites. He took it off life support. He breathed life into it, and gave it an identity.

"When you're down, it's hard to get back up. Everyone is reminding your recruits how bad you are. You get slammed in every possible way. To take all of that stuff, and then build is very difficult. Look at all of the teams he's beaten Purdue, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan State. He's beaten teams from every major conference except the ACC. And he's doing it with essentially a Division II budget and facilities. That's amazing."

BILL PROPOSAL TO DECLARE BCS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Insisting the Division I-A postseason format does not provide justice for all, Hawai'i Rep. Neil Abercrombie is prepared to propose a bill that would declare the Bowl Championship Series as unconstitutional and call for a playoff system.

He said the current system is unfair to teams from so-called non-major conferences, such as UH of the Western Athletic Conference.

Despite amassing the only unbeaten regular season among the 120 Division I-A teams, the Warriors have little chance of being declared as national champion because of a regular-season schedule that was ranked among the nation's weakest.

Ohio State of the Big Ten Conference and Louisiana State of the Southeastern Conference will meet in the national title game, Jan. 7 in New Orleans.

The Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences make up the BCS. They sponsor five postseason bowls, including the national championship game.

BCS bowl participants are selected based on standings involving polls and computer rankings. A team from a non-BCS conference, such as UH, can earn a bowl invitation if it finishes in the top 12 of the BCS standings.

The Warriors, who were ranked No. 10 in the final BCS standings, will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1 in New Orleans.

"They're being let in on sufferance," Abercrombie said. "They're like distant cousins. 'If we're real nice, maybe they'll let us in the house for New Year's festivities.' And we're supposed to be grateful? We're supposed to say, 'Thank you?' For what? They earned their way in. Nobody beat them.

"It's like when people said to (boxer) Rocky Marciano when he retired undefeated: 'Oh, he just took on the bum of the month.' What are you talking about? He beat who was in front of him. That's all you can do is take on who's in front of you, especially when people won't get in front of you."

Abercrombie said the current system is unfair because it is set up to deny non-BCS schools from competing for a national title.

"It's a way of saying there are 120 schools and we're all equal, except some are more equal than others," Abercrombie said. "Remember from 'Animal Farm?' All pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others. There are special troughs for a few of the conferences, and the other conferences get to be on the outer edges of the farm. And sometime, maybe, if you're real good, we'll invite you up to the main trough. If you have a 120-school association, everyone ought to have their shot."

Abercrombie said a system that limits automatic berths to six conferences "is restraint of trade. The automatic qualifiers are still taking care of themselves. I'm saying regardless of what good intentions may be behind this, it's restraint of trade. It's illegal. It's unconstitutional."

He said the best way to resolve the matter would be with a playoff system. All other NCAA football levels have playoffs.

"Do the Warriors work less hard than the (Ohio State) Buckeyes?" Abercrombie said. "I don't think so. Why should they be treated differently? Why shouldn't they have their turn?"

Abercrombie said he expects support from states whose teams did not qualify for the title game.

"I bet I can go to Kansas and Missouri," Abercrombie said. "Ohio won't be so anxious. ... It depends on whose ox is getting gored. I think everyone sees the justice in this (proposal)."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.