June Jones' fifth Hawaii Bowl will be his first with SMU (SMU)
Aloha means both hello and goodbye … and Hawaii is known as the Aloha State.
When the SMU said goodbye to its 25-year bowl drought and hello to Sheraton Hawaii Bowl officials earlier this week, irony started running as rampant as the Mustangs’ 1,000-yard rusher, Shawnbrey McNeal, and 1,000-yard receiver, Emmanuel Sanders.
Aloha Stadium is the site of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl game. ESPN will telecast the Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24th) game, beginning at 7 p.m. CST.
June Jones left Hawaii to become SMU’s head football coach two years ago. He engineered the biggest turnaround in NCAA history in 1999 when he led Hawaii from 0-12 to 9-4, including a victory in the – where else? – Oahu Bowl. When he guided the Mustangs to a 7-5 record after successive 1-11 seasons in 2009, it was the largest single-season improvement in school history. It was also the nation’s biggest turnaround.
The Hawaii Bowl has special significance for Jones. He was a member of the committee that brought ESPN and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts together for the game’s multi-year sponsorship in 2001. His Hawaii teams compiled a 3-1 record during the first five Hawaii Bowl games.
Notre Dame, the school SMU defeated in its last bowl game 25 years ago in the – where else? – Aloha Bowl, beat Hawaii in the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl after Jones left for SMU.
If Hawaii, an 11 ½-point underdog, upsets Wisconsin Saturday, Jones will face his former team in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. If the Badgers beat Hawaii, SMU will probably face Western Athletic Conference runner-up Nevada in Aloha Stadium.
SMU and Houston tied for first place in the Conference-USA West Division with identical 6-2 league records. The Mustangs, who lost 38-15 to the Cougars on October 24th, would have played in the Conference-USA Championship Game against East Carolina, if Rice – a 31-28 loser to SMU – could beat Houston last week. The Cougars, ahead 59-0 at halftime, defeated Rice 73-14. The Mustangs beat ECU 28-21 on October 10th.
The Mustangs will begin preparations for the Hawaii Bowl on December 7th – Pearl Harbor Day.
This is definitely not ironic: SMU and its fans owe Jones a huge mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you).