But for SMU Coach, the Road Is One for the Books
By Bo Carter
DALLAS — Talk about a gentleman who was given a second chance and took it…SMU head coach June Jones came oh-so close to losing his life in a horrific auto accident on his 48th birthday Feb. 21, 2001, near the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii.
Miraculously, the veteran coach recovered and led the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors to their first and only appearance in a 2008 Bowl Championship Series.
That was the culmination of one of Jones’ mid-life super-human events as he accomplished a total turnaround of Hawai’i’s football program from a 0-12 season in 1998 the year before he arrived to a 12-0 regular-season mark (most wins by any NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision squad in 2007) and consensus National Coach of the Year honors. His 1999-2007 stay as head coach in the Rainbow State produced one of the most successful eras in Rainbow football annals.
That season raised more than a few eyebrows, including those of SMU administrators from president Dr. Gerald Turner and below as Mustangs’ faithful longed for their first postseason appearance since 1984 and an end to all the stigmas attached to the Ponies’ 1986 and ’87 NCAA death penalty and suspension of the gridiron program.
It just happened that Jones was interested in making a move to the right place for his family and him, and Dallas seemed like a prime location for a college football coach.
Ever the low-key punster, Jones accepted the offer from the Mustangs and understated his plan of action for a SMU offense, which had been fighting consistency problems since the end of the Eric Dickerson-Craig James Pony Express Days of 1979-82.
“We are just going to throw the ball and hope to catch a few and hopefully make some plays,” he said at the time, “but we are not quite as mature in those areas as we need to be. We hope to get to that point very soon.”
The rest, as they say, is more history in the ever-increasing June Jones historical files.
“Soon” turned out to be in his second season after the 1-11 Mustangs fought through the ’08 campaign and enter spring training with newfound confidence from a veteran coaching staff (a trademark of Jones’ career as he seeks top-notch life and game mentoring for his student-athletes).
With 2009 came the first bowl encounter for SMU since the 1984 season after a 7-5 regular season. The bowl game also served as a visit back to the islands as the Mustangs’ mentor guided the unit to a 45-10 thumping of Nevada Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl where Jones has been 6-1 from 1999-2012 in seven different appearance (he’s an impressive 7-3 in overall bowl contests).
That started a bit of a tradition for the Ponies and ended with a school-record four consecutive bowl berths from 2009-12. In fact, the two postseason wins in the calendar year of ’12 also were a Mustangs’ milestone.
Where do June Jones and the Mustangs go from here? The possibilities are endless, but the SMU head coach is just happy to be around for his 61st year. He demonstrates this by off-field non-profit initiatives — the June Jones Foundation, Coaches for Charity, inner city Dallas’ Urban U Turn: Envision 2020, and several other leadership and assistance programs for underserved children.
Bo Carter is former sports information director of the Southwest Conference and Big 12. In addition to his duties with sportsandoutdoors.guru, he currently serves as secretary of the College Baseball Writers. Follow Bo on Twitter at #bcarter52 and Facebook at Bo Carter (Carrollton, Texas).