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Three days before getting down to serious talks with the Aggies, Sherrill told one of his assistants, Foge Fazio, that he, Sherrill, would coach through 1982 and that would be it for him at Pitt. (Fazio turned out to be his replacement.) That was because Sherrill had come down with a not unusual coaching malady: Feeling Unappreciated. He had perceived numerous slights, like learning during an elevator ride that a new opponent had been added to Pitt's schedule. Yet he obviously hated to leave before a season that even he expected would bring a national championship.
Sherrill, of course, was flattered by the Aggie attention. And he liked the smell of the money, but wasn't overwhelmed by it. "This kind of opportunity," says Jackie, "just doesn't come along...but it did."
It's easy to criticize the Sherrill deal. And the Texas A&M boosters would simply say that they believe it's a legitimate expenditure toward achieving a good football team.
Says Vandiver: "I think the disparity between what a distinguished professor of chemistry gets compared with the football coach can allow you to get bent out of shape. The professor might win a Nobel Prize and change the course of human affairs. But maybe we have to realize that football keeps the money coming in that will keep the professor's laboratories open. We need football here—for the support it brings, for interest in our institution and as a reference mark. Besides, the people want a major football program."
And if A&M could fill its 70,016-seat stadium—last year attendance averaged 63,833—the net increase in the school's revenue would be around $300,000. Which would, of course, neatly cover Sherrill's paycheck.
Vandiver recalls meeting a 70-year-old man who had never seen a single sports event in his entire life, save one lacrosse game. Vandiver, a great sports fan, said, "Think what you've missed." Said the man: "How would I know?"
There in lies the Aggie problem. They know what they've missed. It's called winning big.