Coach June Jones’ Departure From SMU, Ctd.

Several weeks ago, I spent some time with June Jones after one of SMU’s morning practices. I was beginning work on a profile of the coach, timed to run with the beginning of next season. Unless I get a job with the Tempe city magazine, I won’t be writing that profile now. I will say, during the time I spoke with Jones, he didn’t seem like a man looking for another job. In fact, the impression that I got, from what he said, was that he probably wouldn’t be at SMU as long as he was at Hawaii, but when he left it would likely be for retirement, not another gig. Apparently, something changed.

Not long ago, I got in touch with SMU sources who shed some light on the possible reasoning behind Jones’ departure. According to them, the main sticking point Jones had with SMU was lack of support, specifically attendance at games. There was, apparently, quite a discrepancy between what SMU would announce and the actual figure. One of the sources said that attendance at the season-ending Rice game was reported as somewhere around 13 or 14,000. “I was at that game,” he said. “There couldn’t have been more than 4,000.” It was frustrating to Jones, and there was no effort or inclination to get around one of the stadium’s main stumbling blocks (only around 6,000 parking spaces) by encouraging fans to take DART. Yes, Jones got a bit more money from ASU, but the source says that wasn’t the driving factor.

Also, Jones wanted to wait until after the Mustangs’ January 7 bowl game against the Pittsburgh Panthers before he made the announcement — as he did when he left Hawaii for SMU — “but ASU wouldn’t have it.”

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