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Sources: June Jones a strong candidate at Hawaii

With morale at rock-bottom following Todd Graham's disastrous 2-year tenure, Jones would be an embrace of Hawaii's culture, rather than a rejection.

June Jones is a strong candidate to resume leading the Hawaii football program, sources told FootballScoop on Thursday.

The 68-year-old Jones expressed interest in replacing Todd Graham in a TV interview earlier this week. 

"It's heartbreaking to see what the condition of the program is in right now. That's why I'm interested in even talking with (AD Dave Matlin) and talking with whoever's making the decisions," Jones told KHON on Monday.

"It's a unique situation that I've done one time and I know I can do it again, so we'll see what happens. Hopefully I get an opportunity to do that."

The program is at a low point following Todd Graham's resignation, with close to two dozen players leaving the program and morale bottoming out. Jones has pitched himself as a jump-start out of the valley.

Jones is in many ways the anti-Graham. 

An outsider with no ties to the program or the state before he arrived in 2020, Graham tried to change the culture through a bullrush. That approach clearly backfired. 

From the public hearing that served as Graham's undoing, via the Honolulu Civil Beat: 

“He has a rejection of the culture,” said player Leonard Lee, who was unceremoniously kicked off the team last month after daring to speak out about morale on social media.

“Coach Graham doesn’t care about the culture,” said Darryl McBride, a former Hawaii player who hosted the Twitter Space that started an avalanche of complaints about morale from current team members.

“I don’t see the love for Hawaii football culture anymore,” Tina Thomas, the mother of one of the players.

Jones succeeded previously at Hawaii by embracing the culture. He took the Rainbow Warriors to the Sugar Bowl by running the Run-N-Shoot offense, and his teams didn't tackle in practice.

“We would be running an updated (and) improved (run-and-shoot),” Jones said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this week. “Every year, if you’re not improving the offense 15, 16%, you know, defenses are gaining on you. We’ve addressed a lot of things, from that time from coaching the CFL, coaching the XFL, and SMU. … You’d recognize it when we run it, but there are a lot of unique tweaks that are different.”

Jones also compared the transfer portal to NFL free agency -- which he navigated for more than a decade at that level, including four seasons as a head coach. 

A return would mark five decades out of six Jones will wear Rainbow Warrior colors, and it could be complete as soon as this week. 

As this search continues, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.