Less than two full seasons into its tenure in the American Athletic Conference, the SMU program will have to move on to another head coach. On Monday Leigh Steinberg, the agent of Mustangs’ coach June Junes, announced that Jones had resigned as SMU head coach.
“June had felt for some time he had accomplished mission to turn around program and needed a break,” Steinberg posted on Twitter.
SMU officially announced Jones’s resignation later Monday afternoon. The school cited “personal issues” behind Jones’ move and said the decision to resign was the coach’s own. Tom Mason, the team's associate head coach and defensive coordinator, will serve as head coach for the remainder of the year.
Jones came to Dallas in 2008 after a remarkable tenure as head coach at Hawaii. In 1999 Jones inherited a Rainbow Warriors program that had gone 0-12 during the previous season and led the squad to a 9-4 record and a share of the WAC title. That remains the most dramatic one-year turnaround in NCAA history. Under Jones, Hawaii won at least nine games on seven different occasions, and the Rainbow Warriors finished 12-0 in the 2008 regular season and reached the Sugar Bowl, where they were clobbered by Georgia. Jones left for SMU after that season.
The Mustangs went 1-11 during Jones' first season in Dallas but won at least seven games in his of his next four seasons in Conference USA. SMU's production dropped in 2013 as the program transitioned into the American Athletic Conference, and SMU lost its first two contests this year to Baylor and North Texas.
0-8 in C-USA
6-2 in C-USA
6-2 in C-USA
5-3 in C-USA
5-3 in C-USA
4-4 in American
0-0 in American
The timing of Jones’s announcement is odd, but given the stress today’s college football coaches endure on a 24/7 basis, there’s no telling what Jones is going through behind closed doors. In a prepared statement Jones alluded to the personal issues that drove him to resign.
"It was a very difficult decision for me to make, as you can imagine,” Jones said. “I have devoted my life for the last 50 years to playing and coaching this game and it has been a great journey. This job has a lot of demands, as you know, and along with that journey comes a price that is paid. I have some personal issues I have been dealing with and I need to take a step away so I can address them at this time."
It will be interesting to see where SMU looks for Jones’s replacement. Jones did what he was brought to Dallas to do, and that was to rebuild. Now someone else can take a stable program to the next level. SMU is located in the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas, where the right hire could really jump-start the Mustangs. SMU was one win away from going to the school’s fifth straight bowl game in 2013, so the cupboard isn't exactly bare.
The university made a big splash by hiring Larry Brown to take over the basketball program in 2012. We’ll see if athletic director Rick Hart can make similar magic on the gridiron.