DALLAS (AP) — SMU coach June Jones resigned Monday only two games into his seventh season at the school, citing “some personal reasons” for his sudden decision.
The resignation, effective immediately, came after the Mustangs scored only one touchdown while losing their first two games this year.
“It was a very difficult decision for me to make, as you can imagine. I have devoted my life for the last 50 years to playing and coaching this game and it has been a great journey,” Jones said in a statement released by the school. “This job has a lot of demands, as you know, and along with that journey comes a price that is paid. I have some personal issues I have been dealing with and I need to take a step away so I can address them at this time.”
The 61-year-old Jones, who was 36-43 at SMU after nine seasons at Hawaii, didn’t elaborate on what those personal issues were. The former NFL coach didn’t return a message left on his cell by The Associated Press.
Jones’ agent, Leigh Steinberg sent out a tweet Monday in which he wrote that Jones “had felt for some time he had accomplished mission to turn around program and needed a break.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Mason, who was Jones’ associate head coach, was elevated to the top job for the rest of the season.
The Mustangs are off this week, providing some extra time to make adjustments after Jones’ departure. Their next game is the home opener Sept. 20, against seventh-ranked Texas A&M.
SMU hadn’t been to a bowl game in 25 years before 2009, when the Mustangs went 7-5 in Jones’ second season and then beat Nevada 45-10 in the Hawaii Bowl. The last postseason game before that had been before SMU was the only team ever given the NCAA’s so-called death penalty, and had its program shut down for two seasons, 1987 and 1988.
The Mustangs went to four consecutive bowls under Jones, a streak that ended last season when they were 5-7 after losing their last two games. Even after missing a bowl, Jones was given a three-year contract extension after the season through 2017.
“June’s decision to resign was his own, and we thank him for his efforts and wish him the best,” SMU athletic director Rick Hart said in a statement.
“June Jones has been one of the most influential individuals on SMU football since it returned to the Hilltop in 1989,” Hart said. “In addition to re-establishing SMU as a winner, June has helped shape the university and athletics department in ways which benefit student-athletes and coaches across all sports.”
SMU opened this season with a 45-0 loss at Baylor, and then dropped a 43-6 game at North Texas on Saturday when the Mustangs’ only touchdown came on the last play of the game.
Before a 34-0 loss at Houston in the 11th game last season, a Jones-coached college team with his “Run and Shoot” offense had never been held scoreless.
Jones was 112-84 overall in 16 seasons on the college level, including a 76-41 record from 1999-2007 at Hawaii, where he played quarterback and began his coaching career as quarterbacks coach in 1983.
He was 22-36 as an NFL head coach, with Atlanta from 1994-96, and 10 games as San Diego’s interim coach in 1998.
Hawaii was coming off an 0-12 season when Jones was hired in 1999, and then went 9-3 in his first season — the biggest season-to-season improvement in NCAA history. The Warriors were 12-0 during the 2007 regular season and got to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Georgia before Jones left Hawaii for the SMU job.
The Mustangs were 1-11 in Jones’ first season, the same mark as the year before he got there, before the turnaround to four consecutive bowl appearances.
“I want to thank coach Jones for his efforts re-establishing our winning tradition in football,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said. “I also want to thank him for his commitment to nurturing well-rounded student-athletes. June has demonstrated a real devotion to the young men in his care and to serving the community. As a result, our student-athletes leave SMU as better people. He has earned the respect and admiration of many all across campus and in the community, and his contributions to our program will be lasting.”