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With his hiring of June
Jones, Southern Methodist AD Steve Orsini upped the ante in Conference
Though Jones’ hiring won’t
completely swing the competitive pendulum in C-USA, it could certainly
shift the financial dynamics. That’s what a five-year, $10 million
response to a one-win season can do for a league that historically has
bargained for its coaches.
If Jones flips SMU’s
culture, it will send a clear message to league AD's that the price for
success in C-USA has increased substantially. Or, if the Mustangs
maintain their current existence in the C-USA cellar, it would provide
more leverage for the league’s most successful coaches at the
Either way, one could
argue that SMU has raised the monetary bar.
There is another side to
this scenario, the one that questions the rationale in breaking the bank
on a guy who hasn’t proved he’s worth a $10 million price tag. Though
Jones did guide Hawai’i to a BCS bowl, he did it by running the table
against a cream puff schedule in which Pac-10 doormat Washington was the
Warriors’ most impressive win.
Sure, SMU wanted to make a
major statement that it is serious about reclaiming its success from the
Pony Express era. SMU already had the facilities to support that drive —
Ford Stadium is the class of C-USA — it just needed the coach and
success to accompany it.
Jones certainly provides
the Mustangs with a guy who fits the league stereotype for high-scoring
offenses and a refusal to play defense. From that angle, he’ll fit just
But from a financial
angle, Jones undeservedly sticks out. He’s making major BCS bucks
without possessing the résumé or name recognition to truly support it.
Sure, J.J. with his
Hawaiian garb was a rock star on the island, but will his name resonate
in Texas like some of the giants in his profession? Maybe if he dons a
ten-gallon lid and six-shooter on the SMU sidelines.
(And don’t fall for his
NFL credentials. Most prep stars were barely walking when Jones was
running the Falcons and Chargers into the ground.)
About the only guarantee
the Mustangs scored with Jones is a major extension in the length of its
games. More four-hour shootouts are the last thing that C-USA needs.
Especially at the price
SMU is paying.
C-USA was surprisingly
heavy on star quality last season, but the conference could experience a
talent drought in 2008, especially at running back.
Gone are Chris Johnson
(East Carolina), Kevin Smith (Central Florida), Matt Forte (Tulane), and
Anthony Alridge (Houston). Also gone is Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith and
Houston receiver Donnie Avery, by far the best at their positions.
In a league that starves
for media attention, that group proved a major attraction for television
cameras and national publications.
Given the migration of
several stars to the NFL there aren’t many proven weapons returning next
season, which will make preseason prognostications a serious challenge.
It also will make the backroom discussions interesting as TV execs
decide which programs are featured most prominently in their lineup.
Three more years
C-USA’s current television
contracts with ESPN and CSTV run through the 2010 football season. They
won’t end soon enough.
While the CSTV deal has
provided its fair share of desirable time slots, the ESPN gig has been a
major letdown. But what did you expect with a deal that almost
exclusively featured Tuesday and Wednesday night broadcasts?
When the current deal
expires, C-USA should look elsewhere for its television home, focusing
on networks that won’t exile the league to midweek programming. A return
to Fox Sports Net would be a definite step up, while a young network
like Versus is worth exploring.