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Former UNI coach Stan Sheriff dies
University of Hawaii Athletic Director Stan Sheriff, who coached Northern Iowa's football team for 23 years, died Saturday, January 16, 1993, of an apparent heart attack.
Sheriff, 60, was stricken at Honolulu International Airport after arriving home from the NCAA convention, Hawaii sports information director Ed Inouye said. He was taken to Kuakini Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:55 p.m. local time.
Sheriff coached at Northern Iowa from 1960 to 1982 and also served as athletic director before taking over at Hawaii ten years ago.
"As an athlete for him, he had a great understanding of what it took to play the game because of his success playing," said Northern Iowa football coach Terry Allen, a former player and assistant under Sheriff. "He could communicate with you as an athlete."
Sheriff had a history of heart problems. He had bypass surgery in 1986 and had a minor heart attack two years ago.
"He was one of those guys you never think is going to die," said Drake Athletic Director Lynn King, who was recruited by Sheriff in 1964 to play football at Northern Iowa. "A lot of guys were afraid of him, and I was too, early. He demanded a lot."
King was a four-year letterman as a defensive back at Northern Iowa.
"Stan Sheriff was one of those guys who was hard as a rock outside but inside he cared deeply about the people who played for him," King said. Sheriff was a Little All-American as a center at California Poly-San Luis Obispo and played in the East-West Shrine and Hula Bowl all-star games.
After playing professionally with the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Los Angeles Rams, Sheriff went into coaching. He joined the Northern Iowa staff as an assistant in 1958 and succeeded Bill Hammer as coach two years later.
With a record of 129-101-4, Sheriff is the winningest Northern Iowa coach. His teams won or shared four North Central Conference championships and two Mid-Continent titles and made three postseason appearances.
Sheriff became Northern Iowa's athletic director in 1970 and was instrumental in the construction of the UNI-Dome, a 16,000-seat indoor stadium that opened in 1976. Allen said the opening of the Dome was a turning point in Northern Iowa athletics.
"I don't think anybody here will forget how much the Dome has meant to this institution," Allen said. "It's a landmark in the state of Iowa. Everything, all of our athletic success, is directly reflective of the Dome, in football and basketball. It enabled us to go one step up the rung."
Sheriff was born in Hawaii, but moved to the mainland with his family when he was ten. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and sons Paul, Michael, and Richard.
"It's kind of like losing your dad," Allen said. "I talked to Jane and to Michael. A lot of tears were shed. He's the guy who recruited me here at Northern Iowa and got me started in coaching. He treated me like an additional son."
Allen said his success as coach--a 39-11 record and three NCAA Division I-AA playoff appearances--goes back to the foundation that Sheriff laid. Sheriff's immediate successor, Darrell Mudra, made two playoff appearances.
"He's the guy that got everything in position for us to take it another step," Allen said.
At the NCAA convention in Dallas last week, Sheriff lobbied for legislation that would have further enhanced Hawaii's sports programs.
He won passage of a rule that will allow college basketball teams exemptions beyond the maximum games per season should they play in a tournament in Hawaii.A rule already existed allowing football teams a twelve game schedule when they play in Hawaii.
King said Sheriff was the last person he saw Friday at the convention.
"As I was leaving, he asked if we wanted to come to Hawaii to play basketball," King said. "I said, 'You bet we do.'
"He said, "Anytime you want to come over, Kinger, you give me a call."
Hawaii's Rainbow Classic tournament field last month included Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan and Nebraska, which at the time were ranked in the top 20. Sheriff has been credited with upgrading Hawaii programs despite the expense of flying all teams--even those in minor sports--at least 2500 miles to play Division I foes. Hawaii's football team won its first Western Athletic Conference title last season and its first mainland bowl game, beating Illinois, 27-17, in the Holiday Bowl.
REGISTER STAFF WRITER Randy Peterson contributed to this article.
Copyright Des Moines Register, January 18, 1993, page 1S.