DALLAS -- June Jones went into the early hours of Monday trying to decide whether to accept an offer to coach Southern Methodist or return to Hawaii, where the governor is among those trying to keep him.
"When he came here, it was clearly with the intent that if things went well -- and they did -- that we'd be moving to the next stage," agent Leigh Steinberg said as late Sunday turned to early Monday. "But this statewide outpouring has given him pause. He was clearly emotional today. Who wouldn't be faced with a torrent of love, guilt -- every type of emotion."
Jones spent Sunday in Dallas meeting with SMU officials and the search committee that has been working since late October to hire a replacement for Phil Bennett. As the day went on, more and more people from the island reached out to Jones, hoping to convince him to return to the Hawaii program he's guided to national prominence the past nine years. They were rallied in part by reports of a letter he'd sent friends saying that he was going to be resigning.
During a dinner with SMU officials Sunday night, Steinberg said he expected Jones to pick between the schools within a few hours. Around midnight, he called that prediction "unduly optimistic," mostly because of how emotional Jones had become. Steinberg said his client had tears in his eyes at times.
"Really, today could not have gone better from the standpoint of SMU. There were quality people, June loved the facilities, the support was terrific -- their actions were tremendous," Steinberg said. "On the other hand, there's been this torrent of e-mails and phone calls in the most dramatic fashion imploring him to stay.
|June Jones has gone 75-41 in turning around the Hawaii program. (AP)|
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle called to see what she could do, and the president who oversees the entire University of Hawaii system called with an updated contract proposal. It's the second in three days, but the first made by the school's overall leader.
Steinberg said the latest offer included a slight raise but -- more important -- there was "a general statement of commitment to facilities and budgets.
"Their letter today spoke to a commitment to try to remedy those problems, with specific examples where they would move and move quickly," Steinberg said.
SMU likely can provide a higher salary and a bigger budget and better facilities. Jones also would have a more fertile recruiting base, albeit with the trade off of stiffer competition.
Then again, SMU also carries a culture of losing.
The once-proud program of Doak Walker, Don Meredith and Eric Dickerson received the NCAA's only death penalty in the late 1980s. Since returning in 1989, the Mustangs have only one winning season and no bowl berths. They went 1-11 this past season, 0-8 in Conference USA.
Jones, however, started near the bottom at Hawaii, too, inheriting an 0-11 club in 1999. They won nine games his first year, the largest turnaround in NCAA history.