This week, longtime Dallas Cowboys President and GM Tex Schramm died at the age of 83. His health had been failing steadily since his wife of 61 years passed away last winter.
I've always admired people who were innovators. Thus, there was a lot to admire about Tex. Not only in the way he, as the leader of the original Cowboys "triplets" (Schramm, Tom Landry, and Gil Brandt) tranformed the Cowboys into a model and prototype sports organization, but in his impact in boosting the profile of the NFL into the most popular sport league in the country.
After failing to make the grade as a football player, Schramm pursued journalism instead. After returning from duty in WW II, he got a job in the LA Rams' PR
department. In a matter of a few years, he was running the show. It was there he hired a fellow by the name of Pete Rozelle.
After the Rams, Tex went to CBS. It was he who convinced the network to take a chance with something new: live, extensive event coverage of the Olympics. The rest is history. And he was influential in getting the NFL on network television. It remains one of the rare sports leagues that has every game televised nationally.
In 1959, Tex got the call to head up a new expansion franchise for the NFL; the Dallas Rangers. He jumped at the chance. He hired the first head coach for the team; the NY Giants defensive coordinator (and the man who invented the 4-3 defense), a guy named Tom Landry. Despite the handicap of having no draft picks in their first season, the rechristened Cowboys were on their way. They faced one major obstacle early on. After 4 losing seasons, fans called for the firing of Landry. Schramm took the unprecedented move of awarding Landry a 10-year contract extension instead. The rest is history.
Many of the changes made to the league over the last 40-odd years have Schramm's fingerprints on them. Just with the Cowboys alone, he was responsible for:
The star logo on the helmet, one of the most recognizable symbols in sports.
The first, fulltime, professionally run cheerleader squad.
The unique, hole-in-the-roof design of Texas Stadium.
The big arrows next to the yardline numbers, so TV viewers would instantly know which 30-yard line a team was on. (Borrowed from Arrowhead Stadium, and enlarged.)
Appropriating the "blue line" and "red line" concept from hockey, and outlining the 20 and 50 yard lines with colors, so that fans in high endzone seats can more easily discern a team's approximate field position.
Putting tiny "wind flags" on top of the goalposts, so kickers (and announcers) can determine which way the wind is blowing.
Drafting athletes who also played other sports, such as early choices including a basketball player named Cornell Green, and a sprinter named Bob Hayes.
A professionally run scouting department which was the first to incorporate computers.
Initiated the practice of giving intelligence tests to prospective draftees, in addition to standard football tests.
Ironically, one of the things Tex is most widely credited/blamed for, was not his doing. It was the staff at NFL Films, not anyone in the Cowboys organization, that dubbed them "America's Team".
Among league-wide innovations Schramm was instrumental in implementing:
Wider sideline stripes.
Moving the goalposts to the back of the endzone (saving many an injury).
Moving the yardline numbers further onto the field, and making them bigger.
The NFL-AFL merger.
Having the Head Referee announce all penalties over the PA system.
The radios in the quarterbacks' helmets.
The use of Instant Replay as an officiating tool.
The "TV numbers" on the sleeves of players.
And undoubtedly more than a few others I've overlooked. As a longtime NFL fan, I say thanks to you, Tex Schramm, for everything you've done for the game. You will be missed.