- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Ironically, Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler was a principal player in the saga. He was offered about $2.25 million over 10 years to come to College Station. He was on the brink, then backed off, but his base salary at Ann Arbor quickly jumped from $60,000 to $85,000. And he was given a major interest in a pizza parlor in Columbus, Ohio that is supposed to grind out dollars, small, medium and large, hold the anchovies. "It's a lot of money," said Schembechler of the A&M deal, "but look, I'm not saying a coach doesn't deserve it. I don't look for this to start happening all over because there are very few places that can afford it."
At Oklahoma, Coach Barry Switzer said, "It's all relative to inflation." And at Texas, Fred Akers thought over the Sherrill arrangement and concluded, "They're not ordinary everyday numbers, are they?" But Sherrill, who also was named athletic director, persists in the notion that 20 or more coaches make as much money as he does. Jackie also still believes in Santa Claus.
At Pitt, where Sherrill just completed his third straight 11-1 season and where his career record over five seasons was 50-9-1, his base salary was $66,000. But there was a lot else. For example, he had a $90,000 mortgage at 6%, on which he paid only interest. The principal, had Sherrill stayed, eventually would have been paid by the $10,000 money market certificates he was given each year by the university. There were plenty of other baubles, and well-placed sources figure Sherrill earned around $175,000 at Pitt.
Television and radio shows brought him approximately $70,000 a year at Pitt and will be worth $130,000 to him at A&M. Private club memberships, cars and life insurance are provided at A&M, as they were at Pitt. Among the extras at College Station is this: It was agreed that athletic department funds will pay for half his house, up to $150,000, if he coaches for five years. The other half will be paid by Sherrill.
Naturally, the cry has gone up that this is way too much largess for a football coach, that the money should be spent on academics. But the money is contributed by Aggies who love football. And should Congress pass a law outlawing football, these same people aren't about to turn around and give to the chemistry department.
Harry Green, the salaried executive director of the Aggie Club, the athletic department's fund-raising arm (it raised more than $2 million last year), says he has heard a little grumbling over Sherrill's haul. "I have had people call me," he says. "They gripe and I listen, which is what my job is. Then they say, 'Oh, well,' and give me their pledge, and I take it to the bank." Holtz says, "This isn't exorbitant. This money tells people all over the country how important the people at Texas A&M think football is. Besides, Jackie Sherrill is worth it."
He'd better be, because Aggie fans are legendary critics. Invariably, they complain too soon and too loudly. Yet they give, give, give (and even tithe) to their university. The Aggie Club lists 250 people who give $2,000 a year; 300 more are anxious to get into the program when there is room for them. There are 75 boosters who have each given $30,000 to permanently endow athletic scholarships. When 48 suites were installed at Kyle Field two years ago and offered to the public at prices ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for an eight-year period, they were sold in two hours.
The facilities at A&M may be the best in the nation. R.C. Slocum, whom Sherrill hired away from USC last week to be his defensive coordinator, and who has Aggie ties (he was assistant coach at A&M from 1972 to 1980), says, "These fans will do anything to help you. Anything. I just think they feel they haven't been properly rewarded." They haven't. Since 1942 A&M has won the Southwest Conference title only twice (in 1956 and 1967) and in 1975 shared it with Arkansas and Texas. Often A&M is its own worst enemy, living down to Aggie jokes. Emory Bellard quit as coach in midseason 1978 when he heard he was going to be fired later. Sherrill's predecessor, Tom Wilson, went to Vandiver's home shortly before Thanksgiving to request a one-year extension of his contract ($54,000 salary plus about $36,000 in perks) and said if that wasn't forthcoming, he would consider resigning or—according to H.R. Bright, chairman of the Board of Regents—he would not allow his team to return to the field after half-time of the upcoming Texas game. Vandiver told Wilson that he expected to honor his contract, which ran through 1982. Oh, yes, and did you hear about the Aggies who froze to death at the drive-in movie when they went to see "Closed for Season"?
But the Aggie spirit isn't only indomitable, it's infectious. Last season the student body of 35,500 bought 27,000 season football tickets. Amid the football fervor, Texas A&M has more than doubled in size over the last 10 years and claims the largest enrollments in the nation in four different disciplines (engineering, veterinary medicine, agriculture, and architecture and environmental design). Naturally, critics say The Sherrill Thing hurts faculty morale and harms the image of A&M as a serious academic institution.
When asked if he had been getting complaints about Sherrill's salary, Vandiver said, "My goodness, yes. They say we've blown the curve."