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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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June Jones comes to rebuild SMU

SMUs new head coach June Jones fields questions from the media while Athletic Director Steve Orsini and agent Leigh Steinberg look on.
Stuart Palley
SMU’s new head coach June Jones fields questions from the media while Athletic Director Steve Orsini and agent Leigh Steinberg look on.

SMU’s new head coach June Jones fields questions from the media while Athletic Director Steve Orsini and agent Leigh Steinberg look on. (Stuart Palley)

The search for a new head football coach seemed to last forever, and while other schools were hiring coaches SMU waited. But in the end, Athletic Director Steve Orsini found his man in former University of Hawaii coach June Jones.

“As you know, since the day I was announced about 18 months ago, we set a standard of being top 25 in everything we do,” Orsini said. “And I’m here today to announce the coach that is going to take us there, [June Jones].”

After arriving in Dallas early Sunday morning, Jones has been faced with a tough decision. Either leave Hawaii to come to SMU or return to his alma mater after taking them to a BCS bowl game. In the end, SMU was at the top of the list.

“It was a difficult decision for me, that’s all I can say,” Jones said. But the decision came down to the people, the campus and the athletic facilities for Jones.

However, the decision was not an easy one for Jones.

As an alumnus of the University of Hawaii and a former graduate assistant, being the head coach at his alma mater meant a lot to Jones.

“The hardest thing about leaving Hawaii for me is that it was more than just leaving,” Jones said. “I am very attached to the people of Hawaii and I get attached to my players.”

After receiving the offer from SMU of a five-year, almost $2 million a year contract, Hawaii gave Jones two more offers. SMU received a commitment from 20 boosters to donate $100,000 dollars each over the next five years.

“The circle of champions have provided us with a history-setting level of funding to bring us to that top 25 level,” Orsini said. “To be able to afford the staff that we are going to take financially and not increase the burden that we have on the university.”

Jones said he offered jobs to all of his assistants at Hawaii to come with him to SMU, and has received commitments “from a number of the coaches in Hawaii that want to leave.”

But Jones does not expect all to come with him, citing their close connections with Hawaii that caused him to hire them to his staff in the first place. With the other openings on the staff, Jones said he expects to talk to coaches with ties to the state of Texas.

When Jones was hired as the head coach at Hawaii, the Warriors were coming off a 0-12 season and were on an 18-game losing streak. In just his first season on the island Jones improved Hawaii’s record to 9-4 and took them to a bowl game. With SMU coming off a 1-11 season, the Mustangs are in a similar situation.

“I think SMU is ready to go, so that intrigues me and excites me at the same time,” Jones said. “Everybody is pulling together [at SMU] and is trusting Steve Orsini, and that’s what you have to do. And you’ve got to get the right people and it’s about people, and I sensed that in the 24 hours yesterday.”

The Mustangs offered the job to Paul Johnson before he took the job at Georgia Tech. With the counter offers coming from Hawaii, Orsini said it felt similar.

“They’re all different, yet there are a lot of ways they are alike. When you’re aiming high obviously we knew we’d have competition, and it felt a lot like that because there was a lot of competition when the Paul Johnson process took place.” Orsini said. “It felt a lot like that. We courted Paul, we courted June, and we are just glad to have June.”

And after a coaching search that has led to criticism of the SMU administration running the search, it may have been the passion of Orsini and Turner that brought Jones to SMU. The better facilities and the commitment from the administration were citied by Jones as reasons he chose to come to SMU.

“It doesn’t matter what the score is at halftime or in the third quarter, it matters what the score is at the end of the game,” Orisini said. “And I said from day one that I never felt pressured. I was willing to wait and throw the dice, when you’re really trying to take a program to a higher lever you have to be willing to take some risks, and I’ll be the first to say, we took some risks.”

The process that began when former coach Phil Bennett was fired on Oct. 28, over two months ago, is complete and the Mustangs have a head coach.

SMU held a press conference to announce the hiring of June Jones as the new head football coach. President R. Gerald Turner, Athletic Director Steve Orsini and Jones’ agent, Leigh Steinberg joined Jones at the announcement. (Stuart Palley)

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