Tex Schramm, former CBS exec who led the Dallas Cowboys from expansion team to “America’s Team” Super Bowl champs as president and general manager, died Tuesday July 15 in Dallas. He was 83.
Schramm was born in San Gabriel, Calif., where his football-playing days ended after high school. The 147-pound fullback opted for a journalism degree from the U. of Texas and became a sports writer after a stint in the Air Force.
He worked for the Los Angeles Rams 1947-56, climbing from publicity director to general manager (he also gave eventual NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle his first job in the league, hiring him as the Rams’ publicity director), then punted to an executive post for CBS-TV Sports.
While with CBS in Los Angeles, he learned the intricacies of linking football and television, a marriage that has since brought the league billions of dollars. At CBS, he orchestrated the first-ever telecast of the Winter Olympics and hired Pat Summerall to broadcast New York Giants football games.
He joined the Cowboys even before the expansion team was league-approved, and he hired Tom Landry as the Cowboys’ first coach. With the team for the first 29 seasons, Schramm left in 1989, two months after Jerry Jones bought the club and fired Landry. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years later.
Schramm’s legacy includes pushing instant replay, sideline radios in quarterback helmets, goalposts at the back of the end zone, starting the play clock immediately after the previous play and more. 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 popularized it.
For 12 years, Schramm remained the Cowboys’ only Hall of Famer not to be inducted into the club’s Ring of Honor because of the strained relationship with Jones. In April, however, Jones decided the man who created the Ring should be in it, too.
Schramm was also a significant force in the AFL-NFL merger in 1966, which further impacted TV coverage, and was the original chairman of the league’s competition committee.
The Cowboys produced 20 straight winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, 13 division titles and five Super Bowl appearances, winning two.
In 1966, he volunteered to host a second NFL game on Thanksgiving Day, drawing the largest crowd in franchise history (80,259). The game remains a holiday tradition.
Schramm also developed the largest radio network of any sports team: Cowboys games were broadcast on 225 stations in 19 states, plus a Spanish-speaking network that included 16 stations in seven states and Mexico.
He was also highly involved in labor battles, negotiating a settlement with the NFL Players Assn. after the 1966 merger. When players went on strike in 1987, Schramm was one of the leading forces for using replacement players. His aggressive anti-union attitude during the strike forced players like running back Tony Dorsett and defensive tackle Randy White, both eventual Hall of Famers, to cross the picket line or forfeit deferred money in their contract.
His wife, Marty, died in December.