posted on Jul, 17 2003 @ 07:18 AM
Tex Schramm, the innovative showman who helped build the Dallas Cowboys into "America's Team" and was instrumental in the NFL's evolution and
popularity, died Tuesday. He was 83.
Schramm's son-in-law, Greg Court, told The Associated Press that the former Cowboys president and general manager died at his Dallas home.
"The NFL family has lost one of its giants," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in a statement. "Tex Schramm was one of the visionary leaders in
sports history -- a thinker, doer, innovator and winner with few equals."
Schramm hired Tom Landry as the Cowboys' first coach and was with the team for the first 29 seasons. He left in 1989, two months after Jerry Jones
bought the club and fired Landry, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years later.
Without playing a down, Schramm did as much as anyone to shape today's NFL.
"He played a major role in building the NFL into America's passion by developing a glamour franchise with national appeal and by his leadership on so
many league issues," Tagliabue said.
Instant replay, sideline radios in quarterback helmets and starting the play clock immediately after the previous play were his ideas. So were
wrinkles such as wide sideline borders and wind-direction strips dangling atop goalpost uprights.
He also promoted the six-division, wild-card playoff concept and introduced the world to the Cowboys cheerleaders. The nickname "America's Team"
wasn't originally his, but he was the one who popularized it.
"Tex was the ultimate football-minded man," said Hall of Famer Bob Lilly the team's first draft pick. "He loved the game and he had a flair about him
of show business."
But for 12 years, Schramm remained the Cowboys' only Hall of Famer not to be inducted into the club's Ring of Honor because of a strained relationship
In April, Jones decided the man who created the Ring should be in it. Schramm, who brought the first 11 inductees to the Cowboys, was going to become
the 12th member this fall.
"I never gave up hope," he said at a news conference announcing his selection, his eyes filling with tears. "Things that should happen to people that
deserve them, usually do happen."
A strong personality with an imaginative football mind, Schramm had a protective love of the NFL.
Schramm was a significant force in the AFL-NFL merger in 1966 and was the original chairman of the league's competition committee, a position he held
from 1966-88. His first committee members were Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown and Al Davis.
"He was a competitor and loved to argue, but he had a lot of class and you always knew he was trying to do what was best for the NFL," Gene Upshaw,
executive director of the NFL Players' Association, said in statement.
Before being hired by Cowboys founder Clint Murchison in 1960 to run the expansion team, Schramm worked for the Los Angeles Rams from 1947-56. He
worked his way up from publicity director to general manager, then became an executive for CBS-TV Sports.
While with the Rams, he gave eventual NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle his first job in the league -- as the team's publicity director.
With CBS, Schramm learned the intricacies of wedding football and television, a marriage that has brought the league billions of dollars. He
orchestrated the first TV broadcast of the Winter Olympics, and hired Pat Summerall to broadcast New York Giants football games.
Schramm was 39 when Murchison, a prominent Texas oilman, hired him to start an expansion team that had yet to be approved by the NFL.
Among his first hires was Landry. Although opposite personalities, their "business relationship" -- as Schramm called it -- produced 20 straight
winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, 13 division titles and five Super Bowl appearances.
Dallas didn't win a game its first season, then when high hopes fizzled in 1963, there were rumblings that a coaching change was needed. Schramm got
Landry a 10-year contract instead.
The Cowboys went on to win division titles in 1966 and '67, leading to memorable playoff losses to the Green Bay Packers, including the Ice Bowl. They
finally won Super Bowls after the 1971 and 1977 seasons.
When the tide turned in the 1980s, owner Bum Bright wanted Landry fired. Schramm refused.
Schramm was with Jones when Landry was fired in February 1989, but two months later he announced his resignation at the same meeting during which the
sale of the team was approved. A rift developed between Schramm and the Cowboys' new organization, until he dined with Jones in March.
Schramm's marketing genius helped turn the Cowboys into one of the world's most-recognized teams.
An early success was in 1966, when he volunteered to host a second NFL game on Thanksgiving Day. Dallas played Cleveland in the Cotton Bowl that
Thursday, drawing the largest crowd in franchise history (80,259).
In 1972, Schramm decided to entertain fans with professional dancers rather than high school cheerleaders. The seven-member squad forever changed the
Schramm also developed the largest radio network any sports team ever had. Cowboys games were broadcast on 225 stations in 19 states, plus a
Spanish-speaking network with 16 stations in seven states and Mexico.
He also was highly involved in labor battles.
After the 1966 merger, Schramm was called upon to negotiate a settlement with the players' union. He wound up with a then-unprecedented four-year
When players went on strike in 1987, Schramm was one of the leading forces for using replacement players.
"Once the players saw the league could go on without them, that was the end of the strike," Schramm later said.
There hasn't been another strike in the NFL.
Schramm was born in San Gabriel, Calif., where he his football-playing days ended after high school. The 147-pound fullback opted for a journalism
degree from the University of Texas and became a sports writer after a stint in the Air Force.