Rip Scherer, who came to The University of Memphis in 1995, begins his fifth season as the Tigers' head football coach and huge strides in the program continue to be made both on and off the field. Before taking over at Memphis, Scherer served as the head football coach at James Madison University from 1991 through 1994. where he compiled a 29-19-0 record.
Taking over a football program at Memphis that had depended primarily on junior college athletes, Scherer and his staff set out to rebuild the Tiger football fortunes on high school players from the Memphis and southeastern regions of the country. Over the past four years, Scherer has put together some of the most talented recruiting classes in school history.
Seeking national prominence for the U of M football program, Scherer's Tiger team shocked the collegiate football world during the 1996 season. The Tigers grabbed the national spotlight by knocking off the No. 6 ranked Tennessee Volunteers on CBS-TV. The game was tabbed the "Upset of the Year" in college football by several news organizations.
The increased recognition for the football program translated into a second outstanding recruiting campaign. Scherer and his staff were able to land another first team Parade All-American, marking the second consecutive year that a nationally renowned prep player has choosen the U of M.
In his first year at the helm of the Tiger football program, Scherer was charged with the task of remolding and rebuilding a football program that had not received national attention since the 1971 season.
With one season under his belt, Scherer and his staff put together perhaps the greatest recruiting class in school history. The Tigers received commitments from three of the top five players in the city of Memphis, including the nation's all-time leading prep receiver and the number four ranked all-time leading prep passer.
Scherer (42-50-0 overall; 13-31-0 at UM), who brings a family philosophy and a winning attitude to the program, was selected as the head football coach at The University of Memphis on January 13, 1995. Scherer became the 20th head coach in Tiger football history.
The 47-year old Scherer made an immediate impact on the University and the city of Memphis. His first priority was to reach out to the surrounding community, which he did by booking over 150 speaking engagements during his first spring in Memphis. Among his community efforts was bagging groceries at Seessel's food store in order to raise money for the needy, as well as speaking to the Engineering Club of Memphis and numerous civic organizations. Scherer also worked at coaches clinics in Pittsburgh, PA, and Atlantic City, NJ, helped with the Special Olympics and spoke to all the area high school coaches and principles.
"We're trying to build a top-notch program here at Memphis and you have to start with what's around you," Scherer said. "Developing positive relationships with the community and area high schools is a big step in that direction."
Scherer established himself as an outstanding college head football coach in his first year at James Madison University and in 1993 led the Dukes to a successful season in their first year of Yankee Conference play. The Pittsburgh native joined the JMU staff in December 1990 with no head coaching experience at any level and promptly directed the Dukes to one of the top seasons in Division I-AA. JMU was 9-4-0 and played in the NCAA playoffs in 1991. The Dukes were 4-7-0 in 1992, and the 1993 team overcame a 2-3 start to finish 6-5-0.
JMU was 15-16 in the three seasons before Scherer's arrival, but his 1991 team tied a school record for victories, advanced in the Division I-AA playoffs for the first time and was nationally ranked for nine straight weeks. Scherer received two Virginia Division I Coach of the year awards (from the Virginia Sports Information Directors Association and the Richmond Touchdown Club), and the Dukes rewrote much of the team's offensive record book.
JMU received an at-large berth to the Division I-AA playoffs for the first time since 1987 and defeated a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since 1986. The Dukes beat nationally ranked foes in three consecu- tive September games, and they won over four ranked foes during the season (three times in road games). The fourth was in the first round of NCAA play, at Delaware and against the East's top seed. A less-experienced and injury plagued JMU squad finished 4-7 in 1992. Among that season's highlights was a 52-49 victory at defending Division I-AA national champion and then-unbeaten Youngstown State. Youngstown State finished second in the 1992 Division I-AA playoffs, and the Dukes also beat a William and Mary team that was nationally ranked and unbeaten in Division I-AA play at the time.
Scherer's 1993 team had only four seniors among its first 22 players but lost only to playoff competitors William and Mary (31-26 on the road) and Boston University (24-21) in its final seven games. Among the season highlights was a 42-38 win over unbeaten and second-ranked Delaware.
Scherer employed a varied and productive offense and emphasized a disciplined style that minimizes penalties and turnovers. The Dukes improved in each of those areas during his tenure, and before the 1994 season he redesigned a JMU defense that in 1993 allowed 118 fewer yards per game than in 1992.
JMU scored more points and compiled more yardage in total offense in each of Scherer's seasons than in any previous season in the program's history. His first JMU team had but 20 turnovers compared to the previous squad's 31, and the Dukes had but 23 in the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Twice under Scherer JMU set a team record for fewest yards penalized in a season.
When arriving at JMU, Scherer showed little concern for the hurdles before him and quickly began building a program that relied on hard work, discipline and organization. Those were qualities he observed in 17 seasons as a Division I-A assistant.
Scherer came to JMU after three seasons at Arizona, the last two as offensive coordinator. He worked under Dick Tomey at Arizona and for two years (1977-78) at Hawaii. Scherer was a quarterback at William and Mary under Lou Holtz and a graduate assistant under Joe Paterno at Penn State, and he also has been an assistant under Dick Bestwick, Bill Curry and Bo Rein.
Scherer left Arizona's staff after the 1990 team competed in the Aloha Bowl, its second straight bowl appearance . Arizona led the Pacific 10 in rushing during his tenure as offensive coordinator, and the Wildcats had the fewest turnovers in the league in his first year directing the offense. Arizona was 7-4 in regular-season play and bet three bowl teams in 1990. The 1990 Wildcats also became the first team in 75 years to beat UCLA and Southern California in Los Angeles in the same season.
Scherer completed high school in New Jersey and was recruited to William and Mary as a quarterback by Lou Holtz. He lettered three times, two as a starter, and then was a graduate assistant coach under Joe Paterno at Penn State for two seasons (1974-75).
Scherer coached the quarterbacks under Bo Rein at North Carolina State in 1976 and was running backs coach at Hawaii under Dick Tomey in 1977-78. He coached the quarterbacks under Dick Bestwick at Virginia in 1979 (the first season JMU played Virginia) and worked with Rein at LSU in 1980 before the Tigers' coach died in a plane crash.
Scherer served under Bill Curry as running backs coach and offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech from 1980-84. He was an assistant athletic director at Georgia Tech in 1985 but returned to the Yellow Jackets' football staff in 1986 as offensive coordinator. Scherer was offensive coordinator at Alabama under Curry in 1987 and helped the Crimson Tide to a 7-4 record and a Hall of Fame Bowl bid against Michigan.
As an assistant athletic director at Georgia Tech, Scherer was responsible for supervising various student life services including academic counseling, housing and player eligibility, and serving as a liaison between the school and the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Scherer's first JMU team set school records by averaging 31.9 points and 413.8 yards in total offense per game (regular-season games). The Dukes were penalized 57 yards fewer than their opponents, the first time in 10 seasons they had been penalized less than their opponents.
His 1992 squad averaged 30.3 points and 411.4 yards per game and set a team record by averaging 185.0 passing yards per game.
Q&A with Coach Scherer
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