Jackie Sherrill coached just about everywhere across five decades and he really liked playing in Arkansas … except when playing in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium back in the day.
“For a small stadium it was the loudest stadium of any place we played,” Sherrill said to Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft (The Morning Rush) Tuesday morning on ESPN Arkansas. “For the people that never experienced games in Little Rock it was a hard place to play for the opponent.”
Sherrill’s long career started at Alabama where he played and was a graduate assistant for a year under Paul “Bear” Bryant, then came to Arkansas for a year as a GA for Frank Broyles, but he got to know Johnny Majors, who was on the staff then.
He followed Majors to first Iowa State (where he was on the staff with former Arkansas player and another pretty good coach in Jimmy Johnson). Pittsburgh was next as defensive coordinator before going to Washington State for a year and when Majors moved to Tennessee, Sherrill got his first head coaching position.
In 1981 he came to Texas A&M as the first college coach to make over $100,000 a year and he found out pretty quick the old Southwest Conference was as good as anything in football.
“The SEC today is probably as close,” Sherrill said. “The rivalry in the old Southwest Conference was because you only had one school out of state in Arkansas and the rest were in Texas.”
After Arkansas bolted to the SEC it started a chain reaction of teams moving around in conferences and the old SWC ended up in the Big 12 and Texas greed blew that up mainly because Tom Osborne at Nebraska got tired of it when the Longhorns got their own television network.
Texas athletics director DeLoss Dodds was the one trying to impose Texas will on an entire league.
“The biggest thing is DeLoss got really greedy,” Sherrill said. “When they would go to conference meeting he wanted most of the conference TV money. That was the start.”
They came close to going to the Pac 10 along with Oklahoma and some others but the Longhorns weren’t giving up the Longhorn Network that pays them reportedly around $15 million a year.
“The Pac 10 was going to take all the teams to the Mississippi River,” Sherrill said.
Texas could have given up a little bit of their television deal and the landscape of college football would be completely different.
“The economics drives college football,” Sherrill said. “Everything. The money comes from the television plackage (the SEC Network). No one knows today what that package really is because they don’t want the other conferences to know how much they pay the SEC.
“It comes back to one thing — fan base. That’s where they sell the advertising because that’s where they make their money. You look at the fan basein the SEC all are at over a million in each school in fan base and the only other conference that can challenge that is Big 10.”
Coaching under Bryant, Broyles, Majors
Sherrill worked for Bryant, Broyles and Majors over a three-year period from 1966-68.
“Broyles was probably a CEO,” Sherrill said. “He was very intelligent and approached it differently. Coach Majors was a different PR guy and approached it very differently.
“They all approached it differently, but all three were very successful.”
Praise for Razorback fans
“Arkansas fans one of the ones that is true and loyal,” Sherrill said. “If you’re a head coach you want the fan base in the stands.”