Close Window

Jackie Sherrill (1943 - )

Football Coach for Mississippi State

Mississippi State football has reached a new level of success under head coach Jackie Sherrill.

Never was that more evident than when Sherrill took the Mississippi State football team to the 1998 Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 5 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. By directing MSU to the SEC's Western Division title, he had the Bulldogs playing for a league title for the first time in 57 years. Without question, he has built the school's football program to its highest point in modern times.

But his on-field accomplishments have been just part of the success story. His reputation as a winner has brought the entire Mississippi State community alumni and fans, faculty and students alike, together as never before. His presence has Bulldog followers pulling in the same direction for the first time in years. The results have been amazing. With Sherrill at the helm, MSU has established record season ticket sales and total attendance marks. He led MSU to the school's most television appearances in one year ever in 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997 and again in 1999.

Producing the remarkable and amazing is nothing new for Sherrill. In the 1970s and '80s, he established himself as one of the country's best, with head coaching stops at Washington State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M. He is making a similar statement in the 1990s at Mississippi State, and Bulldog fans have relished in his work.

Never has the announcement of a Mississippi State University head football coach caused more excitement and anticipation than when Jackie Sherrill was presented to the MSU faithful on December 9, 1990.

A builder of excellence at two college football powers, the winner of over 150 games as a college head coach, and the holder of the 14th-best winning percentage of all active Division I head coaches, Sherrill has accomplished all that and much more during 21 seasons in intercollegiate athletics.

It is that reputation that has MSU fans beside themselves, even now, seven years after his initial season with the Bulldogs. State fans responded in '92 by purchasing every available season ticket, another first at MSU. In succeeding years, State exhausted its bowl ticket supply and helped set attendance records at both the Liberty and Peach Bowls.

His arrival as State's 30th head coach was a homecoming of sorts for Sherrill. Though a native of Duncan, Oklahoma, Sherrill spent part of his youth in Biloxi, where he starred on the football team at Biloxi High School. He played on two Shrimp Bowl teams and, as a senior, earned high school all-America distinction and team most valuable player honors before graduating in 1962.

During the 1970s and '80s, Sherrill posted a 105-45-2 record, guiding teams at the University of Pittsburgh and Texas A&M to eight postseason bowl appearances and six top-10 finishes. His .697 winning percentage during that time ranked behind only Tom Osborne of Nebraska, Joe Paterno of Penn State, Lavell Edwards of Brigham Young, Pat Dye of Auburn and Bobby Bowden of Florida State.

His 1985-87 Texas A&M teams rolled to a 29-7-1 record, advancing to three straight Cotton Bowls as champions of the Southwest Conference. Prior to that, his final three Pittsburgh teams (1979-81) posted a 33-3 record and finished their seasons in the Fiesta, Gator and Sugar Bowls, respectively.

During his seven-year stay in College Station, Texas, the Aggies posted a 52-28-1 overall record, 36-17-1 within the SWC. After three building seasons, A&M posted 10-win campaigns in 1985 and '87, and Sherrill was named Southwest Conference Coach of the Year both years. Those teams beat Auburn (36-16) and Notre Dame (35-10) in respective Cotton Bowls. He was named national coach of the year by PLAYBOY magazine in its 1988 preseason publication.
His five-year tenure at Pitt resulted in a 50-9-1 record, five straight postseason bowl games and four top-10 national rankings. His 1980 team finished the year ranked second in the nation and his '81 Panthers beat SEC champ Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. During that span, Sherrill was honored as the Eastern Coach of the Year (1979 and '80), and was named the Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1980). In 1981, he was honored as the Pittsburgh Man of the Year and the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year in Pittsburgh.

In all, Sherrill has posted a 6-5 record in postseason bowl play. He is one of only 15 head coaches in NCAA history to take three different schools to postseason bowl competition. Sherrill joins Ken Hatfield (Air Force), Larry Smith (Missouri) and Mack Brown (Texas) as the only active head coaches to lead three different institutions to bowl games.

But far greater than the numbers is the effect he has had on his players through the years. He has coached the likes of Heisman Trophy candidate and current all-Pro quarterback Dan Marino, Lombardi Trophy and Maxwell Trophy winner Hugh Green, Outland Trophy winner Mark May and Pro Bowl regular Ray Childress. Over 100 of his pupils have advanced to careers in professional football and over 80 percent of his student-athletes have graduated during his career.
Sherrill's coaching foundation can be tied to three men of great stature in the world of college coaching.

Sherrill played for the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant at the University of Alabama, where he played seven different positions for the Crimson Tide from 1962 until 1965. He lettered three years at Alabama and played on Bryant's 1964 and '65 national championship teams.

Upon earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration at Alabama in 1966, Sherrill launched an assistant coaching career that included stints on not only Bryant's staff, but those of respected coaches Frank Broyles and Johnny Majors.

He served first on Bryant's staff as a graduate assistant coach at Alabama (1966), and held a similar position on Broyles' staff at Arkansas (1967).

His first full-time coaching appointment came a year later in 1968 at Iowa State where he served as an assistant under Majors. From 1970-72, he was ISU's assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. He continued his association with Majors at Pittsburgh, where he served as assistant head coach for the Panthers from 1973-75.

" I like to think I am a part of all three of them," Sherrill said when hired at State. "You have to admit that Coach Bryant was a man's man. Frank Broyles was an extremely intelligent coach. And Johnny Majors is the greatest PR guy in the business. I have tried to mold myself to be a part of all three of them."

Sherrill landed his first head coaching post in 1976 at Washington State University, but his stay in Pullman was short-lived. He answered the call just one year later to return to Pitt as the Panthers' head coach, and the foundation of his head coaching career was laid. While Sherrill's reception among Bulldog fans and followers has been enthusiastic, it is with the MSU students that he has made an even greater impact.

From his impromptu spirited meeting with MSU students waiting to enter Humphrey Coliseum for the Southeastern Conference championship basketball game in March 1991, to his involvement of the student body in selecting MSU's game uniforms, to the implementation of his now-famous 12th Man kickoff coverage team in 1991, the "Mad Dawgs," Sherrill has made State students feel a part of his football program.

The idea of the 12th Man all-volunteer team came to Sherrill in 1982 upon his first visit to the preparations being made for the annual Aggie Bonfire at Texas A&M. Installed in 1983, Sherrill deployed student volunteers with no athletic scholarships to cover kickoffs during A&M home games.

Another popular innovation put into motion by Sherrill was the Mississippi State University Varsity-Alumni Spring Game, played each year from 1992-94. The contest attracted more than 10,000 fans to MSU's Scott Field and brought more than 100 former MSU players back to campus for a weekend of fun, fellowship and football.

Away from the football field, Sherrill is a popular motivational speaker, missing few opportunities to address student and other campus groups, alumni gatherings and other civic organizations. Since arriving at MSU, he has been honored by Success Motivational Institute (SMI), as the recipient of its 1991 International Achiever Award. Sherrill also lends his support to various charitable causes, including the Leukemia Society of Pittsburgh, The Boys Club, the Shriners Children's Hospital of Houston, The Boy Scouts, and the Palmer Home for Children in Columbus, Miss.

Sherrill and his wife Peggy have five children, Elizabeth, Kellie, Bonnie, Justin, and Braxton. Playing Career

  • Lettered four seasons (1962-65) at the University of Alabama
  • Played seven different positions for UA
  • Played on Coach Bear Bryant's 1964 and 1965 national championship squads

    Coaching Career
  • 1966: Graduate Assistant Coach, University of Alabama
  • 1967: Graduate Assistant Coach, University of Arkansas
  • 1968-69: Assistant Coach, Iowa State University
  • 1970-72: Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Iowa State University
  • 1973-75: Assistant Head Coach, University of Pittsburgh
  • 1976: Head Coach, Washington State University
  • 1977-81: Head Coach, University of Pittsburgh
  • 1982-88: Head Coach, Texas A&M University
  • 1991-present: Head Coach, Mississippi State

    Notes On Coach Sherrill
  • 1979 Eastern Coach of the Year
  • 1980 Eastern Coach of the Year
  • 1980 Walter Camp Coach of the Year
  • 1985 Southwest Conference Coach of the Year
  • 1987 Southwest Conference Coach of the Year