June Jones turned down an opportunity to return as Hawai’i‘s head football coach after meeting with school officials Friday.
Jones, 68, expressed interest in the job shortly after coach Todd Graham resigned under pressure Jan. 14. Although Jones hasn’t coached in college since 2014, he lives in Hawai’i and remains the school’s winningest coach, with a 76-41 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance following the 2007 season.
“I understand that there has been a lot of support for Coach Jones this past week, but he has declined our offer,” athletic director David Matlin said in a statement Friday night. “I respect his decision and we need to move forward in our search. At the end of the day, we couldn’t agree on a succession plan that I felt was important for our student-athletes and supporters of Rainbow Warrior football.”
Jones took to Twitter later Friday to explain why he declined Hawai’i’s offer.
“I am still interested in this job for the people of Hawaii but the job offered to me today there is no way I could accept the conditions offered me,” Jones wrote in his post. “No coach in their right mind would accept!”
Matlin and Leigh Steinberg, Jones’ agent, told ESPN that Hawai’i’s initial job offer was only for two years. Matlin said he eventually extended the offer to three years.
The two sides disagreed about Jones’ staff and a succession plan, which Matlin wanted for Jones, who also has coached SMU, the Atlanta Falcons and the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Matlin declined to name Jones’ potential successor, but sources told ESPN it would have been Colorado State wide receivers coach Timmy Chang, a former record-setting quarterback at Hawai’i under Jones from 2000 to 2004. Chang also has been a top candidate to replace Graham, sources said.
Steinberg told ESPN that the contract length combined with Jones not having full control over his staff led him to decline the job. Jones had no objections to Chang, Steinberg said, as the two remain close. But Steinberg said Jones wanted autonomy over the entire staff.
“June still wants to coach there,” Steinberg said.
Matlin said in the statement that Hawai’i is “working tirelessly” to hire a coach and understands the urgency with national signing day coming Feb. 2. In addition to Chang, Hawai’i is considering former offensive coordinator Brian Smith, who most recently served as offensive coordinator at Washington State, according to sources. Other candidates include UCLA defensive assistant Brian Norwood, a former Hawai’i defensive back.