Tom Landry's career as the only coach the Dallas Cowboys had in 29 years ended Saturday night when an Arkansas millionaire bought the team and made University of Miami's Jimmy Johnson the head coach.
Team owner H.R. "Bum" Bright announced that the Cowboys had been sold to Jerry Jones, a longtime friend of Johnson. Bright said Jones, 46, of Little Rock, Ark., "will be the most enthusiastic owner that the Cowboys have ever had."Announcement of the sale, rumored since Thursday, came at a news conference at the Cowboys' headquarters at Valley Ranch, about 25 miles northeast of Dallas.
"He is as square as a graham cracker, he will do exactly what he says he will. ... I think the group out here is in the best hands it can be in," Bright said of Jones.
"He is going to be enthusiastic, he's going to be interesting, he's going to be agressive. He's going to do what the Cowboys need to do to be in the position they have been in the past few years."
After Bright's opening remarks, Jones said that Johnson will be the Cowboys' head coach, effective imme-diately.
"The man that is going to be with the Cowboys is Jimmy Johnson. He is going to be the heart and the soul of the Cowboys. The greatest thing that is going to ever happen to the Cowboys is Jimmy Johnson," Jones said.
At Miami, Johnson won the national championship in 1987.
"I have a lot of people out here that aren't strangers. This is Christmas to me," said Jones, who was a teammate on Arkansas' 1964 undefeated national championship team with Johnson.
Cowboys president Tex Schramm said he and Jones flew to Austin earlier Saturday night to tell Landry the details of the sale.
Jones paid tribute to Schramm and Landry.
"The Dallas Cowboys are where they are today because of them. They are more than a football team because of Tex Schramm and Tom Landry. There's a lot of things we're going to have to look at in the future, and we'll address that on a case by case basis."
Jones confirmed he will be a hands-on owner.
"This is a different, a new era for the Cowboys. There's never been, now but three owners and now only two coaches. I don't mind telling you, that puts me in company I've never walked in, and I think Jerry will tell you the same thing, that he doesn't carry Tom's water bucket."
Asked about the sales price, Jones said, "That's between Bum and me, but I don't mind telling you I'm going to need some lead in my back pocket. I'm going to leave Dallas lighter than when I came in."
The price of buying the Cowboys had been estimated at $140 million.
Johnson flew to Dallas Friday in Jones' private jet, but Jones said Johnson headed back to Florida on Saturday. Johnson has not decided on a staff, Jones said.
Jones said UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman will be the Cowboys' likely pick with its No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft.
"We believe Troy Aikman to be the greatest opportunity for a team to get a player. There is no player that Jimmy Johnson feels greater about than Troy Aikman," Jones added.
The Cowboys finished 3-13 in 1988.
Dallas Mavericks owner Donald Carter, himself a serious bidder for the Cowboys, said he thought he was in the thick of things a week ago, "but something happened."
Of Jones, Carter said, "I don't know much about him, but from what I saw tonight, I'm impressed."
However, Carter disapproved of Landry's removal as coach.
"I don't agree with that. I'm not an authority on coaching but there are ways to do things and that wasn't the way. That really bothers me. If Tom had been in town today, I'd have gotten in touch with him," Carter said.
Schramm, the man who hired Landry in 1960, will retain his title with the Cowboys.
Landry, 64, had one year left on his contract at $800,000 this season.
Bright bought the Cowboys in 1984 from Clint Murchison Jr. He paid $60 million for the team and $26 million for the stadium lease.