Thursday, June 05, 2014

The way we were...UM hires Jimmy Johnson

Miami News, June 5, 1984.

Video via the Wolfson Archives

Thirty years ago today, the University of Miami hired Oklahoma State head football coach Jimmy Johnson to replace its departing head coach, Howard Schnellenberger.

Miami News, May 25, 1984. 
(Click to enlarge.)

Schnellenberger, who was making $250,000 a year and had three years left on his contract, quit UM "to become head coach, general manager and part-owner of the United States Football League's Washington Federals," the Miami Herald reported on May 26, 1984.

The Herald's Christine Brennan wrote, "Schnellenberger, by signing a five-year contract worth between $3 million to $3.5 million, now has the largest guaranteed contract in the history of sports coaching and management. He will make $200,000 a year for the next five years, with the rest coming in deferred payments."

Schnellenberger's departure left a lot of UM fans feeling betrayed...including the guy interviewed in the video above who kept calling him "Schellenberger."

The Herald's film critic, and UM grad Bill Cosford wrote:
Say it ain't so, Howard.

Of course, Howard Schnellenberger isn't a bad man, and he hasn't done anything corrupt. It's hard to fault him for improving his lot. Nonetheless, Howard -- the same Howard who seemed to shine with character, whose force of personality seemed the biggest single factor in the Hurricane Miracle of less than six months ago -- is now part of what's wrong with American sports.

Howard giveth, Howard taketh away. We are broken-hearted because we are not among the ones saying that Miami can't repeat this year, the schedule being so tough and the losses to graduation (or whatever) so significant. We knew that with Howard, anything was possible. We were a little puzzled to hear Howard say that the university wasn't giving him the resources to keep up with the competition, since he recently beat Nebraska's Team of the Century with those same resources, but that's not the problem.

The problem is that almost everyone agrees Howard would have been a fool to stay. A man making $250,000 a year may seem lucky to you and me, even if some of his checks are late, but he would be a fool to pass up $3 million and a lifetime six-figure income. The family, financial security, all that.

Two weeks after Schnellenberger told UM fans he was jumping ship, Miami News editor Howard Kleinberg was still feeling bitter: "I'm still sore [...] it was the manner in which Howard left that made me lose considerable, if not all, respect for the man."

But the Norton Tire Company had the last word when it came to dissing Schnellenberger:
Howard Schnellenberger' s ride with Norton Tire Co. has gone flat.

Company officials have pulled television ads that had the former University of Miami football coach talking about integrity. Some customers felt betrayed by the coach's exit with three years remaining on his university contract.

Also gone are the life-size cardboard Schnellenberger profiles that greeted buyers in Norton stores. "People can't get to Howard personally," said Norton spokesman Dary Matera, "but they could come in our stores and cuss out the poster. That's not a situation we wanted."

Norton President Ronnie Pallot said: "We're going to lie low for a while and see if this thing blows over. We have received calls from die-hard fans who resented his switch and resented our using him in the ads. We're going to ride this thing out without using him." [Miami Herald, June, 2, 1984]

Then in August, exactly three months after announcing he was quitting UM, Schnellenberger was out of a job, again:
MIAMI, Aug. 24— Sherwood Weiser said today that he would not purchase the troubled Washington Federals, a decision that left Howard Schnellenberger without a job.

Weiser's planned acquisition and shifting of the team to Miami were scrapped, he said at a news conference, because of the United States Football League's decision to switch from a springtime to a fall schedule in 1986 and the competition this would have caused with the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami. [via the New York Times]

Johnson, meanwhile, finished his first season at UM with an 8-5 record.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on anything you read here.

All comments must first be approved. Spam and spam links will not be tolerated or approved.