Tuesday, January 8, 2008

goodbye, june.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

In case you haven't already heard, the University of Hawaii's football coach, June Jones, has taken the head coaching job at Southern Methodist University. His contract will run for five years and will pay him around $2 million annually.

I'm not going to go into what he did for the UH football program--because it is immeasurable in wins and losses. I can say that my dad and I were there when the team went 0-12 before June and lost 19 in a row over the span of two seasons.

Listening to Hawaii sports radio about it is making me sick. Leading up to the Sugar Bowl, you would have thought that 100,000 people have been lifelong season ticket holders. Everyone was suddenly there, like James Murphy in "Losing My Edge".

But that's not the issue at hand. This season was a storybook one--the team went 12-0 and got into the Sugar Bowl. The state was more or less shut down. People wore green every day. People are still wearing their Sugar Bowl t-shirts. I was offered $100 for my fitted UH New Era by a man on the street. This team united the state. I got calls from every time zone after every win. My dad and I were living this strange dream--0-12 seemed so long ago. He and I lived through UH sports--we flirted with the idea of going to see UH play Xavier in Dallas when they had their Cinderella run and somehow managed to win the WAC Tournament and got into March Madness in 2002.

UH's entire run brought up so many pressing issues. The first, obviously, is that the BCS simply does not work. I have a strange conundrum--I go to a school with one of the most storied programs in football history. Top five football schools? Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and USC.

And the BCS school's get paid double what UH do--even though they play in games of the same ilk. It's hard hearing your own dad talk about how it's really unfair that your alma mater--the school his paycheck goes to--gets double what UH gets...the school that he lives and dies for. My dad and I bleed green. UH sports were a pivotal point in my childhood. And, really, to hear my childhood brushing up with my adulthood is really strange.

There was a brief, fleeting period in time where USC could have theoretically played UH. My dad said "there's no way you're cheering against UH". I told him "yeah, but I go to USC" and he said "but you're from Hawaii and will always be from Hawaii". And, really, I am. I live and breathe and bleed green. I cared way more about UH this year. I read every Honolulu Advertiser story about every UH sporting event. That's all we have, really--UH.

And I think that's why it's so hard to see June go.


My mom told me that my dad had written three emails to June Jones--the first pleading him to stay, the second asking him to reconsider his move to resign, and the last lambasting him for taking the SMU job.

I came home last night and talked to my dad about it, and he couldn't get further than saying "June is a dick" with his eyes welling up with tears I have never seen him cry before. It's strange--my father is easygoing and doesn't get emotional about much...but he was livid when my mom showed him the picture of June holding up the SMU jersey. "Take that down," he said, "it's making me sick".

And I know where it's coming from. I sat with him in 1998 as the team wentwinless. We went to every excruciating game.

All my dad asks for is heart. It's all he's ever asked for, even from my siblings and I. "At least they play hard. At least they have character. At least they have heart", and I think, somehow, that's saying something about he and I actually going. We've been through UH basketball seasons when the team is absolutely dismal--like this year--and his mantra is the same. "If they're going to show up to play, I'm going to show up to watch. I owe them that, at least"

I guess it's fitting that he's dealt with hearts all of his professional life.

And with every game we won this year, I'd get a call from him to talk about the game. I'm a pragmatic person because of my parents--and I don't think my father and I really thought that the team would go undefeated. Not because we didn't want them to and not because we didn't think that the team wasn't great and not because the competition wasn't lousy--but because we'd been there for the losses. We knew how hard it was to not lose a game.

Of course, the team pulled out all of these amazing victories, and, there we were--in the Sugar Bowl. As he game started, I don't think my dad and I really believed what we were seeing in all of its HD glory--UH playing in a BCS bowl game, on New Years, and at somewhere that was not Aloha Stadium. And, of course, the game got out of hand, and yet, there we sat, for its duration, both believing that they'd pull it out.

It would have been one thing if that's how the year ended. Of course, though, a more complete destruction had to happen for such a beautiful ascension. It did.

It was public knowledge that June Jones and the players wanted better facilities. It was public knowledge that he offered to take a pay-cut to get the assistant coaches he wanted--only to be turned down.

It's public knowledge that Herman Frazier is inept. The man made a mess out of letting Riley Wallace (the men's basketball coach) go and procrastinated with the hiring of the new basketball coach. His attempts at scheduling are laughable at best and pathetic at worst...and he frequently failed to offer Jones an extension. Yes, June said he didn't want to talk contracts during the season, but why not sign June to an extension before the season starts? It's mind-boggling, really, just how poor of an AD Frazier is.

Read this article and try not to feel sick to your stomach, even if you are not a UH fan. It's just really disgusting.

And with all of the disdain June had for Frazier, the email he sent to Frazier was frank while being cordial. It was the nicest break-up letter ever--he even made a short list of new lovers...err, coaches.

But June never said "it's not you, it's me"...because it was Frazier. And as angry as my dad was last night, saying it was all about money...he said today, that he knows, in his heart of hearts, that June did the right thing.

Next year's team is going to struggle mightily. It's recruiting season, and UH does not even have an athletic director--therefore, a coach isn't even on the horizon at the present.

It's going to be interesting to see just who the real fans are next year, though. Everyone showed up when the men's basketball team upset Kansas...but no one is going to the games this year.

I know my dad will be there, though...and I can tell he loves Hawaii more than most people do, because he's always there. The team can be lousy, but it's their Hawaii hearts that count.

"Records..wins and losses...they don't say anything about people," my dad says.

But knowing real, actual people who said before the season that the team was terrible and that going 0-12 was just a stupid idea and a joke, and them seeing in pictures rushing the field after the Boise State and Washington wins just makes me sick.

I'd rather have a lousy UH with real fans than all of these people who claim to have been fans "since forever". You have no right to care what June does--you didn't for all these years.

"It says a lot more to show up when you're losing than to sing when you're winning...after the party, someone's still got to clean up"

You couldn't be more right, dad.