In July, after waiting nearly fifteen years for his day in court, college football coaching legend Jackie Sherrill settled a defamation case against the NCAA. His 2004 lawsuit alleged that after the NCAA publicly named Sherrill in an investigation over recruitment violations while he was at Mississippi State University, he was effectively blacklisted from future work as a football coach. After just a few days of testimony during which jurors heard about Mississippi State’s recruiting practices under Sherrill, the coach reached a settlement with the NCAA for undisclosed financial terms.
Sherrill lives in Wimberley, and in Texas he’s perhaps best known for his seven seasons as head coach at Texas A&M University, where between 1982 and 1988 he won 52 games, lost 28, and had one tie. The Aggies claimed three consecutive Southwest Conference championships under Sherrill. On the National Podcast of Texas, he’s joined by his stepdaughter, singer-songwriter Bonnie Bishop. On Friday, she’ll enter the next phase of her career with a highly-anticipated new album, The Walk. It was produced by Steve Jordan, the legendary drummer/producer behind the Grammy Award-winning John Mayer album Continuum and who’s also worked with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and a rotating cast of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. Not long after moving to Nashville in 2008, Bishop won a Grammy for a tune she co-wrote that Bonnie Raitt recorded, but after five records, she almost called it quits and temporarily moved back to Wimberley to live in Sherrill’s guest house.
Sherrill and Bishop discuss leadership, evaluating success, and taking the losses. Plus Sherrill speaks to the lawsuit and a recent California assembly bill that would allow college athletes there to profit from their name, images, and likenesses. A few takeaways from our chat:
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1. Sherrill says that while coaches are hired to win games and fired when they don’t, he believes they’re given too much credit for both the wins and losses.
“We don’t win. Players win. Your job is to make sure that you have them prepared on the field. No snap goes the same. It’s a physical game, but you have to be mentally tough to play football and coaching is about getting them ready to play. Then you have to get out of the way, and let the players perform. The coaches you see hollering on the sidelines at their players generally don’t perform very well. One of the greatest coaches ever was John Wooten, and you never saw him get off the bench. He never said a word to a player, but he got them ready. Coach [Bear] Bryant would also never say a word on Saturday, but on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday? Yes. He would say a lot.”
2. Earlier this month, Bishop performed at the funeral of Kylie Rae Harris, the Texas musician who died in a car crash while driving to Taos, New Mexico, where she was set to perform at the Big Barn Dance Music Festival. Bishop says a lot of what she’s learned from her father about perseverance helped her deal with the death of her friend.
“She had driven twelve hours that day to play a gig and died one mile from the venue. As somebody that does that for living, you can’t look at that and not be affected by it. After it happened, I canceled a show, thinking ‘This is all pointless. I don’t care. I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to get back up. This hurts too bad.’ But it’s not about how many times you get knocked down. It’s about getting up. My dad taught me successful people follow good habits, and they make commitments—keep them and keep moving forward. In the face of tragedy, the only action that we can take that’s positive is continuing to move forward.”
3. Sherrill insists that if in his day they were offering contracts similar to Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher’s 10-year, $75 million deal, he wouldn’t have coached any differently.
“That money doesn’t change what Jimbo does either. When people first told me about his contract, I said, ‘Jimbo doesn’t even know what $75 million is.’ He knows coaching, but he’s not a financial advisor. He’s not in that world, and it’s not gonna change him. It might change his lifestyle a little bit, but as a coach he’s the same person. And there’s always going to be people who make the mistake of thinking, ‘I make more money, therefore I’m a better coach.’ There’s a lot of coaches that didn’t make very much money that were great coaches.”