Twenty-one years after his death, the shadow of Stan Sheriff still looms large at Aloha Stadium. When Hawaii plays frequent Football Championship Subdivision contender Northern Iowa there Saturday it will be a match of football programs 4,035 miles and a division apart but now brought together, in part, by the memories of a man who was not only a common thread but a shaper and innovator at both.
At UNI, where he spent 23 years (19601982), Sheriff remains the all-time winningest football coach (129-101-4) and a beloved athletic director for whom its football field is named.
At UH, where he served as AD from 1983 until his death in 1993, Sheriff oversaw a statewide TV package and construction of the arena that carries his name and so much more.
“Stan was truly a remarkable man,” said Bill Salmon, who starred at quarterback at UNI in the 1970s and was so close with the family he was considered the Sheriff’s fourth son. Salmon, who babysat Sheriff’s youngest son, Rich, is the Panthers’ associate head coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Salmon said, “We used to spend lunch hours going over film and he had just an awesome football mind. Whatever little bit I know about football probably came from Stan. Every time I get the chance, I tell our people about what Stan meant to UNI and why our place is named ‘Stan Sheriff Field.’”
It was Sheriff who relentlessly pushed for an on-campus indoor facility that would provide respite from the harsh winters in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and be a multi-purpose home to everything from wrestling to football. To meet the $7 million budget requirements for what became the 16,234seat UNI-Dome, the facility went without a hard roof. At its 1976 debut, the name UNIDome also stood for “unique” as the first indoor stadium with a full-sized, airsupported fabric roof.
It later added a hard, permanent roof and serves as home to the Iowa state high school football championships.
After arriving at UH, the Honolulu-born Sheriff had talked of someday bringing UNI to play UH, wanting his former school to see what he regarded as his home state.
But there were other, more pressing issues atop his lengthy to-do list, which was why a framed water color painting of the UNI-Dome hung over the desk in his UH office. It served as an ever-present reminder and inspiration for the project that would occupy so much of his energy.
It was on a mid-1980s return to UNI, where he was to be honored, that Sheriff introduced his then-associate AD, Rockne Freitas, to UNI’s Jersey Jermeir. “They adored Stan,” Freitas said. “Stan was still the man there.”
But Sheriff’s untimely death in 1993, a week after the 1992 Holiday Bowl victory over Illinois, left hopes of a UH-UNI meeting in abeyance until 2012. Noting Freitas had just been named interim AD at UH, Jermeir suggested to UNI AD Troy Dannen that the Panthers approach UH about a game.
“The Stan Sheriff tie is how this happened,” Dannen said. “It was very fitting.”
Rich Sheriff said, “I think my father would be excited for both schools. I know he would be proud.”
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.