Jones says it doesn't matter what conference Hawaii plays in

Updated: October 20, 2003, 11:41 PM ET

HONOLULU -- The latest exodus from the Western Athletic Conference may cause concern for the remaining seven football programs, but not Hawaii coach June Jones.

"As long as we continue to schedule the Oklahomas, the Texases, the USCs, the Alabamas for our non-conference (games), it doesn't really matter who we play in between," he said Monday. "Whatever the conference is, the WAC or the Mountain West, it really doesn't matter, we're going to have the same crowd."

University of Hawaii president Evan Dobelle has expressed interest in joining the Mountain West Conference because of the chance to regularly play former WAC rivals Brigham Young, Nevada-Las Vegas and San Diego State.

Jones was coy about what conference he would rather play in if Hawaii left the WAC, saying "I haven't even thought about it."

"I'd prefer to be on the West Coast obviously, but who knows what the future will bring and I'm not going to make those decisions anyway," he said.

Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa announced Friday that they would accept invitations to join Conference USA. That league is expanding, anticipating Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and DePaul will join the Big East.

Jones said there's a lot of uncertainty in C-USA too, not just the WAC.

"So you got a whole bunch of ifs," Jones said. "The bottom line is you just show up on Saturday and play whoever and worry about things you can control."

WAC Commissioner Karl Benson identified eight schools Monday as possible replacements for the three openings. The schools are New Mexico State, North Texas, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Arkansas State, Utah State, Idaho and Middle Tennessee State -- all members of the 15-team Sun Belt Conference.

The WAC's reconfiguration will be its fifth since 1992. The conference has had as few as eight teams and as many as 12 teams in that time.

Hawaii has been among the stronger teams in the WAC since Jones took over the atrocious Warriors program in 1999.

The Warriors tied for first in 1999, tied for sixth in 2000, tied for fourth in 2001 and place second last season.

This year, Hawaii (4-3, 3-1 WAC) is third in the conference behind Boise State (6-1, 3-0) and Nevada (5-2, 3-0).

Hawaii is coming off its first road victory of the season, defeating Louisiana Tech 44-41 and keeping its conference hopes alive.

"I think when you come from behind on the road like that and make plays, it helps your confidence level," Jones said. "You start to feel like a winner and you expect it more. That helps you in the long run."

Jones said he knew the importance of winning at Louisiana Tech in relation to the WAC race and earning a bowl bid.

"I think winning on the road in the conference is the name of the game," he said. "It doesn't matter if you're in the NFL or in the WAC."

Hawaii hosts struggling Texas-El Paso (2-5, 1-1) on Saturday.

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index