Thought bubble: Holy crap, is this what my career has come to?
The rumblings started a week ago, but it now appears official. June "If you consider 7-5 seasons and bowl losses at home to Army miracles, then yes, I am a miracle worker" Jones will be taking his untucked Hawaiian shirts, leis and bubbling personality to the desert. Jones will supposedly be announced as the new head man at Arizona State by the end of the week. The rumors of Jones' exit started fairly early in his tenure with the coach reportedly clashing with the administration over their commitment (read: hesitancy to loosen academic requirements for recruits) to football after initial promises to the contrary. Things officially started boiling over this year when SMUs attendance issues never improved and now it appears he's had enough. SMU folk will likely lash out at the only decent coach they've ever known in most of their lifetimes for failing to finish the job, but considering fan and administrative support were the straws that broke the camel's back, they only have themselves to blame.
While anyone with half a brain should be able to understand June's decision to leave - no, ponyfans, the Big East is NOT a good reason for any coach to remain with that sinking ship when tossed a life raft, trust us - let me take it one step further. I really think June Jones left SMU because he possesses the one trait that possesses us all: SMU Hate. I stated above that June had issues with the administration. We've written about it in previous hate pieces, so no need to completely rehash what has been said. Basically, just when it looked like the Ponies might REALLY turn the corner, the administration pulled the rug out from under June's staff as far as admissions standards and cost him a couple of recruits he had promised scholarships to. Keep in mind, one had even been accepted into Penn, an IVY LEAGUE school, but SMU wouldn't have him. This would naturally anger any coach, and June was no exception, drawing out his contract negotiations which caused the big wig donors to threaten a revolt and tar and feather SMU Prez Gerald Turner if they didn't make a better commitment to football.
In the meantime, Jones interviewed with Maryland and was considered a leading candidate before ultimately signing a two year contract extension intended to keep him in Dallas thru the 2013-2014 season. But only the most optimistic of SMU fans could've believed that contract would ever see its end date, and now it looks like their luck has run out less than a year later. In case you doubt that June's SMU Hate played a role, take a look at how this situation played out. After the Ponies big win in Fort Worth, a victory that was supposed to announce the Ponies as a CUSA challenger and threatened to have them ranked for the first time in nearly three decades, the team absolutely fell apart, tumbling to a 3-4 finish and a bowl game in Birmingham. Hint: That's worse than the Poinsettia Bowl. Their best team in 25 years, and the only one that didn't cost them a dime, couldn't compete in CONFERENCE USA! I'd be lying if I said I actually watched any SMU games this year outside of ours, but SMUs offense was rolling when they left Fort Worth. In their four losses the rest of the season they scored 3, 7, 14 and 7 points. Yes, there were injuries, but when you're supposed to be a challenger, you don't fall apart that rapidly. Jones never struck me as a brilliant motivator, but that's the sign of a coach that has mentally checked out on his team and by proxy, the school he represents. June never showed much emotion on the sidelines, but he pretty much viewed the second half of the season like LeBron James views the NBA Finals.
Jones' final insult? Circulating an email to the powers that be at SMU YESTERDAY declaring that he was staying in Dallas, all the time knowing he was going to sign a contract with Arizona State. That's some cold blooded, self serving shit right there. Well played, June, well played.
Jones leaves SMU with a glittering 23-28 record over the course of his four years, including a 1-1 bowl record. All jokes aside, considering SMU had missed a bowl game for 25 years, leading this team to three straight is quite the accomplishment. But when SMUs famed "Circle of Champions" gave June a $10 million contract, is this how they expected it to go? A high point of 8-5, followed by two 7-5 seasons, one culminating in a home bowl loss to Army, a school that doesn't even pretend that football is their second priority? Of course, I suppose June DID get SMU an invite to a BCS Conference, but let's be honest. The Big East will not be a BCS Conference when such things are rearranged, and the Ponies did NOTHING to garner the invite anyway except reside in a football rich area alongside a team that developed the blueprint for mid major success. Apparently even June Bug knew that SMU didn't deserve to ride TCU's coattails to a BCS Conference and got the hell out of dodge before things get ugly again.
So now is the time when we like to peruse the always entertaining ponyfans.com and see how the elite of the Metroplex are taking things. Some are optimistic, citing that Jones proved you can win at SMU and, with the Big East behind them, the Ponies should be able to land an attractive coach. I tended to agree with them, until I read their wish list, which includes RON ZOOK, MIKE SHERMAN, Mike Martz, TURNER GILL, Pete Carroll and, my personal fave, buying out Mike Leach's WSU contract before he even starts it. Actually, that's not my fave - the best is the person that suggested they shouldn't have ever fired Phil Bennett in the first place. As a refresher, Phil Bennett went 12-23 while at SMU. Seriously, it's all there.
However, for the most part, those guys are absolutely down in the dumps. Most realize that treating a 7-5 season the way most teams celebrate a Conference title is the signs of a program that isn't anywhere close to truly turning the corner. They understand that just about any Coach with ambition is going to use their program as a stepping stone to something better. A few had the semi-reasonable suggestion of Gus Malzahn, but his base salary at SMU would likely be no higher than what he already makes at Auburn, which is substantial. Besides, he's almost certainly holding out for a better gig than SMU as he's going to be the hot assistant from now until he leaves Auburn. It kills them to know that they were closer to righting the ship than they had been since the days when 99% of their current enrollment wasn't even alive. And you know what? I don't have an ounce of sympathy. Not after all the giggling they had at our expense for keeping us out of the BCS. Not after all the shit they talk about Gary Patterson for the sole reason that people fear what they can't understand and they can't understand football success. I like a lot of people from SMU as people, but in the context of football related matters, pile them all on the trash heap. You reap what you sow, assholes. Have fun in CUSA+.
Anyway, welcome to the SMU Hate Club, June Jones. I can't wait to hear his SMU exit speech. I have a feeling it will double as his SMUHC acceptance speech, and for that we are anticipatory. Go Frogs.
**UPDATE** Well it looks like Arizona State gave June the ole JKLOL and pulled his contract at the last second. I'm still not deleting this post, though.