The Long Way Around

It's given that anyone who takes the Chargers head-coach job assures himself of temporary employment and a downhill NFL career path. Go back 20 years and except for Marty Schottenheimer (now doing piece work for ESPN), being the Bolts head coach was the high-point of every man's NFL career.

Working backward from Marty, we have Mike Riley, three years head coach, 14-34 record, now coaching Oregon State. Kevin Gilbride, one year and six games into another 6-16 record, now offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Bobby Ross, five years, 50-36, is retired after compiling losing records at Detroit and Army. Dan Henning, three years, 16-32, went on to be offensive coordinator for Buffalo and Carolina. Al Saunders, two years and eight games, 17-22 record, now associate head coach for the Washington Redskins.

The point is -- for everyone save Marty Schottenheimer -- being head coach here was the peak of his NFL professional life. Then, there is June Jones. After Kevin Gilbride was fired six games into the 1998 season, his quarterback coach, June Jones, was given the job of interim head coach. Jones coached the next ten games, posted a 3-7 record, and then...walked.

I remember thinking he had a grip on himself, knew what would make him happy. Nine coaches out of ten would grab the golden ring, would say anything, do anything to be an NFL head coach for one more day. And, looking at Jones's NFL record and his falling out with Jerry Glanville, June Jones was probably one of the nine in earlier days.

Here's the story: Coaching goes by the buddy system; everybody hires his buddies. Jones broke into the NFL in 1987 as the Houston Oilers quarterback coach for Jerry Glanville. Glanville was his ticket in. Time passes. Glanville is fired in 1989, moves on to be head coach for Atlanta. Jones goes to Detroit as generic coach and then, in 1991, is hired again by Glanville, this time as assistant head coach. Big promotion. Three years later, Jones replaces Glanville as head coach. That ended their friendship.

But, the 1998 June Jones version walked, walked away from the NFL to be head coach of an offshore small college team in a minor athletic conference, a team that had lost its last 18 games.

The school in question is the University of Hawaii, known to locals as University of Hawai'i at Manoa. And, yes, after you think Hawaii and imagine beaches, surf, women, weather, women, surf, beaches, you can then consider how far Hawaii is away from media-USA, how difficult it would be to recruit quality football players when it's a five-hour plane ride to San Diego, ten hours to New York, and you have a recruiting budget of $65,000.

On Sunday, Hawaii (11-0) beat Boise State 39-27 to claim the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship and moved up to No. 12 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Twelve is the magic number; 12 and below means Hawaii gets an automatic BCS invite. A BCS bowl means millions of dollars and national TV.

By the way, Boise State, last year's Cinderella BCS team, is ranked 25th. Not bad for a slap-together minor-league conference. Most people aren't aware of what a rapacious, for-profit beast collegiate athletic conferences are. The word "whore" comes to mind. In 1962, the WAC was a six-team league: Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Colorado State and UTEP joined in 1967. The Arizona schools bolted to the Pac-10 in 1978 and were replaced by San Diego State, Hawaii, and Air Force. Membership changed again in the 1990s; coming aboard were Fresno State, UNLV, Rice, San Jose State, SMU, TCU, and Tulsa. Departing, with great sorrow, were Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah, and Wyoming. The new millennium brought forth Nevada, Boise State, and Louisiana Tech. Taking the last train out were TCU, Rice, SMU, UTEP, and Tulsa. But, let me introduce the new inductees: Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State. As we speak, Boise State wants out and is looking for a better deal.

The above is a mirror to June Jones's football career that had him traveling to seven professional football teams as coach and three colleges as quarterback. This is not a man who, at the age of 46, one would expect to stay put. One would be wrong.

Finally, remember Jerry Glanville? After Atlanta fired him he was out of football for 12 years. Couldn't get a job. In 2005, June Jones hired him as defensive coordinator. Last February, Portland State University announced they'd brought in Jerry Glanville to be their new head coach.

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