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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 7, 2009

Jones fulfills his half of matchup

By Ferd Lewis

Whatever happens in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl come Christmas Eve, June Jones wins.

We're not talking about the game against the team he plays, Nevada, as much as the competition with the one he won't be facing, the University of Hawai'i.

The day Jones stunningly bolted UH for Southern Methodist University 23 months ago it became a ready-set-go comparison to see how the two programs would fare: one with him and the other without.

We knew what Jones could do at UH, where he remains the winner of more football games (76-41) than any other coach in school history. But how would he do in his new environment and how would the Warriors fare without him?

Which was why the Hawai'i Bowl wanted a UH-SMU matchup while memories and feelings were still fresh.

Well, the bowl got half of what it wanted when the Mustangs went 7-5 for a second-place finish in Conference USA's Western Division. But with a 51-10 thumping by Wisconsin Saturday, UH finished 6-7 and couldn't deliver the other half.

The combination gives updated ammunition to the argument that UH dropped the ball in losing the coach who had led it to the Sugar Bowl and 12-1 finish in 2007. And it provides validation to Jones, who more than doubled his contract to $2 million and got some of the program enhancements that hadn't been forthcoming at UH.

The inability to renew Jones' contract cost then-athletic director Herman Frazier his job after the Sugar Bowl. Then-UH President David McClain apologized at the time saying, "Exceptional performance deserves exceptional recognition and your university was slow to step up."

Meanwhile, Jones went to SMU where he shook things up, sometimes drastically like cutting problem players and employing freshmen in large numbers. His first season resulted in a 1-11 finish while the Warriors (7-7) made the Hawai'i Bowl.

But a lot of young players made a difference at SMU this season, giving the Mustangs their first bowl berth in 25 years with a turnabout that mirrored Jones' first season at UH in 1999. Back then, UH went from 0-12 to 9-4, including an Aloha Bowl victory.

How would UH have fared against SMU in the bowl?

Too bad we won't find out. Not this year, anyway, which gives bragging rights to Jones.