After June Jones bolted a comically underfunded Hawaii football program a year ago, he took the reins of an SMU Mustangs program still struggling to re-establish their pre-death sentence identity from 20 years ago. Jones apparently thought that over 10% of the team didn’t fit that identity and purged nine players from the roster in February, citing the ubiquitous “violations of team rules.”
There was one teensy problem, though; some of the players argued that they hadn’t, in fact, broken any rules. Eventually, five off the nine dismissed players appealed SMU’s decision to release them from their scholarship. A judge finally ruled on the case Friday, and according to the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, three of the five athletes have been placed back on athletic scholarship for 2009-2010. Awkwaaard.
According to a source within the athletic department, the decision required that both sides “keep the results confidential” (whoops!). We’re not sure what purpose that serves, since a cursory search of the team roster over the next few months could tell you everything you need to know, but whatever.
Anyway, to that end, the three reinstated players (Jordan Johnson, Taylor Bon, and Anthony Sowe, all sophomores) all refused to comment to the Morning News, as did the two players whose petitions were denied (freshman Ben Goldthorpe and junior Alex Odiari).
The strangest part may be the fact that Jones didn’t need to invent reasons to release the players from their scholarships; as Jones correctly notes, the “contract [scholarship] is for one year, not four or five years.” But he attributed those releases to disciplinary issues when, in the case of multiple players, none existed:
The players were among nine Mustangs released from the team on Feb. 10. SMU coach June Jones said in a statement on Feb. 11 that they were released due to a violation of team rules and/or athletic department policy.
In the two days after the statement appeared in the Morning News, Johnson and Bon came forward to clear their names and said that they did not violate team rules and did not have any strikes under Jones’ “three strikes” policy.
Now Jones has a decision: leave the players off the team but keep them on scholarship, leaving the team with essentially 82 players, or welcoming back the guys he tried to toss under the team bus. Or there’s always option C: kick more innocent kids off the team. Hasn’t steered him wrong yet.