THE BIGGEST factor in June Jones's decision to leave Hawaii was money—not the huge raise that SMU was offering the head coach but rather Hawaii's history of refusing to plow some cash into its burgeoning football program. So on Monday, Jones, the most popular coach in Rainbow Warriors history, accepted the head job with the moribund Mustangs, who haven't had a winning season since 1997.
The courting process—completed less than a week after Hawaii's 41--10 loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, the Warriors' first BCS appearance—became the latest episode in a soap opera that started with, well, soap. Last May quarterback Colt Brennan publicly condemned the team's ramshackle digs, saying, "We can't even get soap in our locker room. We're going against programs that have $20 million facilities with support and tradition." A soap drive ultimately solved the problem, but that was just one symptom of neglect. Players and coaches also complained of tiny offices and having to rely for years on a single camera, won by Jones at a pro-am golf tournament, for game film; state representative Mark Takai called their practice field "deplorable." "If an athlete is going to come here and play for us," Jones has said, "they're not coming for our facilities."
Nevertheless, a conflicted Jones shed tears last weekend. Hawaii president David McClain sent a list of promised improvements and an offer of a raise from $800,016 a year to $1.3 million, and Jones received calls from fans, school officials and governor Linda Lingle. Jones's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said he had never seen such an emotional reaction "in 30 years representing athletes." But SMU athletics director Steve Orsini promised something that Hawaii couldn't: a network of generous boosters, who are reportedly paying Jones's five-year, $10 million contract and who will keep the program flush. Jones has given himself a monumental task: SMU, which was 1--11 this year, has never fully recovered from the NCAA-imposed death penalty that canceled its 1987 season. Still, on Monday, Jones gave Hawaii his answer: No soap.