Hawaii reaches financial agreement with former football coach

HONOLULU -- Hawaii has resolved its financial dispute with former football coach June Jones over the early termination of his contract, officials said Friday.

Under the agreement, the June Jones Foundation has donated $100,010 to a scholarship fund for students pursing degrees in Hawaiian studies or language. In addition, an undisclosed donor has contributed $100,000 to the school.

"Hawaii is my home; therefore as I look beyond our past achievements in football, maintaining a healthy relationship with UH and sustaining productive contributions to our island communities will always be important to me," Jones said in a statement.

He also encouraged his former team to beat Notre Dame in next week's Hawaii Bowl.

The university has said it was owed $400,008 in damages because Jones left Hawaii before his five-year contract expired June 30. The figure represents half his annual salary with the Warriors.

Jones resigned and accepted a job worth about $2 million a year at Southern Methodist, six days after Hawaii lost to Georgia in last January's Sugar Bowl to finish the season 12-1.

Under his Hawaii contract, Jones was prohibited from accepting employment "under any circumstances" as a football coach at any NCAA school or professional team in the United States before the expiration date ... "without first obtaining a written release or a negotiated settlement."

"In the event the university releases coach of his obligations under this agreement, coach shall be responsible for paying to the university liquidated damages," Jones' contract stated.

Jones' agent has argued the coach had an agreement with former Hawaii athletics director Herman Frazier that there would be no penalty to leave after three years. Frazier was fired a day after Jones announced he was leaving.

Jones came took over a dismal and winless Hawaii program in 1999. In eight years, he led the Warriors to their first BCS berth and produced a Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Colt Brennan.

John De Fries, a businessman and longtime friend of Jones, entered negotiations in late September in hopes of settling the long dispute that left hard feelings for many involved.

"It did leave a sour taste. But he didn't have the time to think about it because he had to get into recruiting right away (at SMU). He was so busy trying to transition," De Fries said. "I think there were a number of people that felt awkward about what had happened. That's why it was so important to resolve this."

De Fries said there is now a "restored peace," and Jones is left with no hard feelings.

University of Hawaii President David McClain said in a statement that the school was pleased to be able to move forward with the matter resolved. Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw said the donations were greatly appreciated and wished Jones well.

The funds came from the June Jones Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to helping needy families of children with life-threatening illnesses, as well as other causes. One upcoming event is a football academy and medical mission in American Samoa.

De Fries, who serves on the foundation's advisory board, along with several Hawaii business leaders, said Jones is a "major contributor" to the foundation.

"At the heart of it and what people have to understand is, June Jones loves Hawaii and the University of Hawaii," De Fries said. "In a career move, he's moved on to SMU. His very close friend, (new Hawaii coach ) Greg McMackin, has done an excellent job in year one and everybody is better for it."