Hawaii coach tells friends he's resigning
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By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
The most successful chapter in University of Hawai'i football history came to an apparent end yesterday when June Jones resigned after nine seasons as the Warriors' head coach, according to close friend Al Souza.
The move allows Jones to formally entertain an offer from Southern Methodist University, which is seeking a new head coach.
Agent Leigh Steinberg said Jones is scheduled to meet with SMU officials today on the private school's Dallas campus.
SMU has raised $10 million to give the next head coach during the life of a five-year contract.
Jones currently earns $800,016 in annual base salary in a five-year contract that expires June 30.
Steinberg said Jones was inundated with calls and e-mails from fans imploring him to remain at UH.
"It was heart-wrenching," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said Jones was moved by the outpouring, acknowledging there is a slight chance he will reconsider.
In an e-mail distributed to select friends yesterday, Jones included a copy of the letter of resignation he sent to athletic director Herman Frazier.
Souza said Jones broke down in tears as he mulled his decision Friday night.
"He doesn't want to leave," Souza said.
But Souza said each item on a long list of Jones' requests for his staff and program was rejected by athletic department officials through the years. Copies of those requests were attached to the resignation letter.
It was the perceived lack of commitment, Souza said, that led to Jones' emotional decision to leave a program he resuscitated in 1999 and brought to national prominence, culminating with a 12-0 regular season in 2007 and an appearance in last Tuesday's Sugar Bowl.
"This breaks his heart," Souza said.
Athletic director Herman Frazier, through a spokesman, said he had not received the resignation letter, which was supposed to have been sent to his office yesterday morning.
Frazier also had not heard directly from Jones yesterday.
"I told him to call me before he made a final decision," Frazier said.
But Souza said Jones has indeed resigned.
"I won't acknowledge what he's done or not done," Steinberg said.
Jones, who departed Hawai'i yesterday evening, did not return messages left on his cell phone.
SMU athletic director Steve Orsini also did not respond to messages left on his cell phone.
Last summer, Jones told UH officials that he would not negotiate a contract extension between the start and end of the recently completed season.
Frazier said the Board of Regents did not approve a measure to increase the ceiling for the head coach's salary until last July, not leaving him enough time to assemble an offer by Jones' deadline.
Frazier confirmed he did not have contract talks with Steinberg during the 2007 regular season.
In an e-mail to Frazier on Christmas Eve, Jones requested permission for Steinberg to listen to offers from other suitors. Frazier gave his blessing.
In an e-mail to Frazier on Dec. 26, Steinberg wrote that he was contacted by a school with a "time-sensitive situation." That school, it turned out, was SMU.
On Thursday, SMU asked Frazier for permission to interview Jones. Frazier gave his approval.
That night, Frazier, UH president David McClain and Manoa chancellor Virginia Hinshaw offered Jones a contract of about $1.1 million a year.
The next day, the UH trio told Jones they would make a second offer, even before hearing a response to the first proposal.
That second offer, according to Jones' friends, was close to $1.7 million annually.
But the second offer did not include any provisions promising improvement to facilities or added resources for the football program.
"The issue of June's compensation has never been June's concern," Steinberg said. "June's focus has been the facilities, and the ability to take the program to the next level. And I'll leave it at that."
Jones is the school's winningest football coach, compiling a 76-41 won-loss record.
Jones received a five-year contract extension in 2003 and since then he has led the Warriors to four bowl games in five seasons and 11-3 and 12-1 records the past two seasons.
Frazier said his main focus was to make an initial financial offer, then work on the other concerns in future discussions.
Steinberg said SMU officials have "outlined parameters" of a proposal, but that a formal offer cannot be made without the approval of the SMU search committee and president.
Frazier said if Jones were to decide to leave, he would release him from the final six months of his UH contract.
"But our intent is to keep him," Frazier said.
UH would not be able to name a new coach until the position has been advertised for 10 days. Frazier said he will not consider other options because he still considers Jones to be his football coach.
But Tyler Graunke, who was groomed to be next season's starting quarterback, believes Jones has coached his last UH game.
"It's going to bum me out," Graunke said. "I can't lie. I had tears when I learned that. It's tough. He was a mentor to me. He was a great guy, and a great coach. He really set the stage as far as putting the program in a great position.
"But it happens in life and in football. The program will continue with coach Jones or without coach Jones. I'll be ready. I want all of the people in Hawai'i to know: Don't be worried. Coach Jones or not, we're going to roll."
• • •
June Jones' highlights at UH
June Jones' year-by-year highlights at the University of Hawai'i:
Dec. 12, 1998: Hawai'i announces hiring of Jones as football coach. He spurns a multiyear offer from the San Diego Chargers to become their permanent head coach. Jones had been interim head coach. His salary is $320,000 a year.
Dec. 14, 1998: Jones is introduced at Washington Place before Gov. Ben Cayetano and business leaders.
Dec. 30, 1998: A day after the Chargers' season ends, Jones returns to Hawai'i to officially start as UH coach.
Sept. 4, 1999: Southern California routs Hawai'i 62-7 in Jones' debut. The Rainbows' losing streak is extended to 19, then the longest in the nation.
Sept. 11, 1999: Jones coaches first victory for UH, 31-27 over Eastern Illinois, ending the nation's longest active losing streak.
Sept. 25, 1999: UH ends a 24-game Western Athletic Conference road losing streak, spanning seven years, against Southern Methodist (24-0).
Nov. 13, 1999: Rainbows beat Fresno State 31-24 in double overtime to share WAC title.
Nov. 21, 1999: Before beating Air Force 48-41, Hawai'i is formally invited to play in the O'ahu Bowl.
Dec. 25, 1999: Rainbows beat Oregon State 23-17 in the Jeep O'ahu Bowl, completing the biggest turnaround in NCAA history. Hawai'i, 0-12 in 1998, finished 9-4.
1999: Jones named WAC Coach of the Year. Named National Coach of the Year by CNN/Sports Illustrated, American Football Coach/Schutt Sports and The Sporting News.
July 26, 2000: Athletic department changes logo from rainbow to the "H." Football team changes nickname to Warriors from Rainbows and Rainbow Warriors.
Dec. 2, 2000: A 34-32 loss to UNLV ends 3-9 season.
Feb. 22, 2001: Jones is critically injured when his car hits a concrete freeway support pillar. He misses spring practice recovering.
August 2001: Jones returns to field to conduct UH fall football camp.
Dec. 8, 2001: A 72-45 victory over Brigham Young ends a 9-3 season, but Warriors fail to receive bowl bid.
May 2, 2002: NCAA certifies Hawai'i Bowl, ensuring the Warriors a bowl game if they finish with a winning record.
March 10, 2002: In Advertiser article, Jones criticizes UH paying rent but getting no revenue from Aloha Stadium and the stadium's worn AstroTurf playing surface, also criticized by the NFL.
Dec. 25, 2002: UH loses to Tulane 36-28 in first ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl, finishing 10-4.
April 1, 2003: Installation of FieldTurf at Aloha Stadium begins.
June 20, 2003: UH Board of Regents approves five-year, $800,016-a-year contract for Jones, half of which would be paid by private donations.
Dec. 25, 2003: UH beats Houston 53-48 in triple overtime in Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, finishing 9-5.
Dec. 24, 2004: UH beats Alabama-Birmingham 59-40 in Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, finishing 8-5.
Dec. 3, 2005: UH ends 5-7 season, failing to qualify for Hawai'i Bowl for first time in four seasons.
Dec. 24, 2006: Jones passes Dick Tomey to become winningest head coach in UH history (against an all-college schedule) with 41-24 victory over Arizona State in Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl for 64th win. Warriors finish 11-3, tying school record for victories in a season.
Dec. 4, 2006: Jones named WAC Coach of the Year for second time.
August 2007: UH receives first preseason ranking in AP (No. 23) and USA Today (No. 24) polls.
Oct. 14, 2007: UH ranked for the first time in Bowl Championship Series standings at No. 18.
Nov. 23, 2007: UH beats Boise State 39-27 for first time after six losses to win first outright WAC title.
Dec. 1, 2007: UH beats Washington 35-28 for 12-0 record, UH's first undefeated regular season (against an all-college schedule).
Dec. 2, 2007: UH ranked No. 10 in Bowl Championship Series, also No. 10 in AP and USA Today polls, highest in school history.
Dec. 3, 2007: Jones earns third WAC Coach of the Year honor.
Jan. 1, 2008: Jones takes UH to its first BCS appearance, losing 41-10 to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in the Superdome in New Orleans.
See Tsai's blog at http://blogs.honoluluadvertiser.com.
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