Even among the long list of Texas football legends, Pardee's story ranks in rarefied air. He was a six-man football champion, a member of the A&M team Bryant held closest to his heart, an All-Pro linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins and a Coach of the Year at every level he plied his trade in college and the pros.I met Jack Pardee on a several occasions when he was coach of the Cougars because he would oftentimes attend the same mass at the Catholic Newman Center on campus that my mom, brother and I attended. He was a pleasant person to be around and I had a lot of respect for him.
Family members disclosed his death Monday in Centennial, Colo., a Denver suburb, from gall bladder cancer. He was diagnosed in November and moved with his wife, Phyllis, to Colorado to spend his final days.
"My dad was in a lot of pain near the end, and it was time for the Lord to take him," said his son, Ted Pardee. "He was committed to football, but he was always close to his family.
"He had a lot of love to give. He was a sweet guy who was never afraid to give us a hug and kiss. He fought a tough battle, and we're going to miss him."
He will be best remembered in Houston for his years as head coach of the USFL's Gamblers, where his players included future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly; the University of Houston Cougars, where he coached Andre Ware to the 1989 Heisman Trophy; and the Oilers of the run-and-shoot era of the 1990s.
Pardee had his critics. I know of a few UH faithful who felt that he was not a good recruiter, or that he merely used the University of Houston as a “stepping stone” to get back into the NFL. While at UH, Pardee and his staff received national scorn for running up the score on various opponents: 82 points against Tulsa in 1988, 95 points against an SMU team coming off the “Death Penalty” in 1989. There were also fans and sportswriters, locally as well as nationally, who disliked Pardee’s devotion to the Run and Shoot offense; they felt that the one-back, no tight-end set was gimmicky, couldn't control the clock and couldn't score in goal-line situations. Then there's the fact that he never led the Oilers to an AFC title, let alone the Superbowl, and that he was coach when the team managed the biggest chokejob in NFL and Houston sports history.
Nevertheless, I'll always appreciate him for what he accomplished during his short tenure at the helm of the UH football program. When legendary UH Coach Bill Yeoman fell on hard times and was forced to resign in the mid-1980s - the team went 1-10 in 1986 and was being investigated by the NCAA for violations that would later put the team on probation - Pardee breathed life back into the moribund program. In his three years as head coach the Cougars went 22-12-1, including a 3-0 record against the hated Texas Longhorns. Pardee's 1989 Cougar team, which scored an average of 53 points per game, gave up an average of 13.3 points per game, and ended the season ranked #14 in the AP poll, might be one of the best teams in UH football history. It should also be remembered that Andre Ware won the Heisman that season in spite of the fact that none of the Cougars' games were televised. Such a feat would be impossible today.
Ted Pardee said his father chose in his final days to establish what he hoped will be a lasting legacy through the Jack Pardee Memorial Scholarship at UH.
He truly loved the time spent at the University of Houston and wanted to find a way to help a deserving, hardworking, dedicated athlete who might not have the means to pay for their own college tuition," Ted Pardee said. "He could have offered his name to a lot of different charities or scholarship funds, but this was what my dad wanted to do."Pardee could have chosen to set up a memorial fund anywhere, including at his alma mater, Texas A&M. That he chose to set up a fund at the University of Houston speaks volumes about him and his love for UH.
Pardee's funeral mass will be held here in Houston on Monday.