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Landon: UCF deal too good for Jones to pass up

Mar. 30, 2010 @ 12:20 AM

There are generally two sides to every controversy.

And so it is with Donnie Jones' decision to leave Marshall and accept the head basketball coaching position at UCF.

On the one hand, there are reports of Jones having an uneasy relationship with first-year Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick.

But on the other hand, Hamrick says Jones told him, "You've done everything you could to help me," during a telephone conversation Monday morning.

So, which one is it?

As usual, the answer probably lies somewhere in the murky middle.

The rhetoric insisting Jones was at odds with Hamrick is based on reports that DJ felt like he was being put into a situation where he couldn't win.

The alleged reasons for that thinking?

Hamrick was openly critical of Jones' non-conference schedule and is insisting on stronger opponents next season. Also, Hamrick was forcing Jones to play a second "money game" next season in the form of a road contest at Louisville.

But is that true?

Not exactly.

Hamrick most certainly wasn't thrilled with the likes of Salem International, Brescia and Rio Grande on the Herd's 2009-10 schedule. But who was? And, yes, there will be a second "money game" as part of the home-and-home football scheduling package with Louisville.

Those aren't necessarily bad moves, however.

"We will be playing Louisville at Louisville," conceded Hamrick. "But that's part of an exempt tournament I got us into. In exchange, we get three home games that we don't have to return."

So, what's not to like? That helps Marshall's non-conference basketball schedule. It gives Herd fans a marquee basketball game within easy driving distance. And it gives Marshall football a home game with a BCS opponent.

The alleged issues don't end there, however.

Supposedly, there were concerns about no charter flights during the regular season.

"Donnie wanted a charter for the Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa and he got one," said Hamrick. "He wanted to fly home on the charter right after the loss and they did."

Then, there are reports that Hamrick refused to negotiate with Jones' agent on a new contract.

"But he got a new five-year contract worth $450,000 a year," said Hamrick. "We tore up the old contract and the new one took effect in October."

Next, there's the most recent rumor claiming Hamrick turned down an NIT bid.

"That is absolutely untrue," said Hamrick. "We filled out a financial application for an NIT home game. I can show you the paperwork. We did everything we could to get in the NIT."

There even is sniping that Hamrick never set foot in Jones' office.

"I like Donnie. ... we're friends," said Hamrick. "We've talked three or four times through this process with UCF."

The bottom line to this controversy?

"Those facts don't portray that out," said Hamrick. "Donnie got a new five-year contract. There are new locker rooms. And there are new upgrades coming for the Henderson Center."

Why, then, is Jones leaving?

It's simple.

UCF made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Jones will reportedly receive a five-year contract worth $5 million, coach in a new, state-of-the-art on-campus arena and have much greater resources. Besides, he's returning to his old stomping grounds in Florida where he has great recruiting connections.

I don't blame Jones for leaving. I also don't blame Hamrick for Jones' departure.

Marshall fans shouldn't blame them, either.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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