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Wednesday, August 20, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Hawaiian flair works for Jones in his coaching job at SMU

By Dave Reardon

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It's just not fair. We remain Olive Garden-less and In-N-Out is out-not-in for the 50th state.

But L&L Hawaiian Barbecues magically appear in every mainland ville west of the Mississippi, including Plano, Texas.

A good place for a guy like June Jones, who -- even though he was back in Hawaii just a couple of weeks ago -- misses laulau and kalua pig ... almost as much as the fairways at Waialae Country Club, lush enough to navigate in bare feet.

Jones worked a crowd of displaced islanders Saturday between bites of his plate lunch, talking story with guys more than willing to pay two bucks for a can of orange-passion juice.

Some trekked to the Metroplex from as far as Oklahoma City for Hawaiian music and local food. No poi, but plenny mac salad and rice -- and face time with the current SMU and former Hawaii football coach, a transplant like them.

"It was a great time," Jones said in a phone interview yesterday. "By the way, we're going to have Henry (Kapono) and Willy K do the national anthem and halftime shows at some games this year."

Those popular Hawaiian entertainers were Aloha Stadium staples during Jones' nine-year run as UH head coach, and they still play at UH games now. Interesting that downtown Dallas will get a dose of kanikapila this fall to go with the local kine grines -- and a Mustangs team with heightened expectations after last year's 8-5 record, including a Hawaii Bowl win in Jones' second season.

Jones is optimistic about this fall, but expects tough competition in Conference USA. "Central Florida's always good, but we don't have to play them this year. Houston, East Carolina should contend. It's one of those conferences where anyone can win."

Another solid season, and maybe a more prestigious conference for the Mustangs? Jones sees it as a possibility, but not as things are now. "The Mountain West is interested in the Dallas TV market. If we can show some consistency ... But we don't have baseball and track. I think we'd have to add them and show a commitment to those sports.

"I don't think (realignment is) over yet. I think the Mountain West might add a few more teams. And I'm kind of surprised the Big 12 didn't make a run at TCU."

He said Boise State's impending exit from the WAC has a positive side for Hawaii. "Boise's always one of the toughest places to go play at," said Jones, whose Warriors teams never won on the blue turf. "Not having to do that makes your chances of success in the conference better."

Jones doesn't foresee SMU being able to play UH soon, unless it's in the Hawaii Bowl. "There's a possible change involving a Texas A&M game. But our schedule's booked up for the next 10 or 15 years. It'd have to be one of those special things."

Hawaii should consider eventually going it alone in football, he said. "I've talked about independence for 10 years. There's a lot of interest in that TV slot, the last game. Hawaii has a unique slot, and FOX, ESPN, Comcast, a lot of people are looking for programming. I've thought being independent is the direction to go toward for a long time, with the rest of the sports in the Big West. Of course you're taking a chance with scheduling. You just never know how it will work out, but it's worth really taking a good look at."

The student athletic fee just passed at UH is "pretty favorable, that's going to help a lot."

Everything's not perfect for SMU football; two recruits were recently denied admission by the academic office despite being NCAA qualifiers. But things are good enough in Jones' eyes that he agreed last week to sign a three-year contract extension that keeps him in Dallas through 2014.

How bad can it be when you head into the upcoming season with 17 starters back from a winning team? Especially when you're always just minutes away from an authentic plate lunch.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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