It was a lesson that Stan Schwartz learned early in his tenure as coach and executive with the Calgary Stampeders.
“I learned from Tony Anselmo, who’s in the Hall of Fame (builder, 2009) that this is a team game. I don’t ever recall putting myself ahead of the players and the coaches,” Schwartz, 73, says from his home in Calgary, where he figures he’s about halfway through his autobiography.
“Tony said, ‘Stan, if you ever become president or have a senior position in the club, don’t ever put yourself out in front. When you win a championship you’ll get the recognition with the ring and that, but you have to make sure that you look after the players, the coaches and the fans. I’ve always tried to do that.’”
Whether Schwartz needed the advice or not is up for debate, but it was wisdom that the longtime volunteer, educator, coach and eventual president of the Stampeders took to heart. Schwartz enters the Canadian Football Hall of Fame this year as a builder, having put football, the Stampeders organization and his community first for over 40 years.
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The inductees learned they were Hall of Fame-bound in early February, but Schwartz said until he’s actually in Hamilton for the ceremony, it won’t feel real to him.
“It’s certainly a surprise and I’m appreciative of something like that. There are so many people in our business that are deserving of the same recognition but never receive it,” he says. “That’s unfortunate but I guess that’s the way it is. You can’t recognize everybody. I’m certainly thankful for being recognized and it’s a nice finish to a 40-year journey.”
Schwartz played football early in his life, but says it wasn’t until his last year at the University of Calgary that the bug really bit him. A P.E. major with a strong interest in the game, he figured coaching football would assist in getting his foot in the door with a new employer. He became an assistant coach at Calgary’s Ernest Manning High School in 1969 and that sparked a seven-year stretch teaching and volunteering in football and wrestling. After getting his Master of Science at Indiana State University, he landed an assistant coaching gig with the Stampeders, which he held from 1976 to 1983.
After taking the role of McMahon Stadium senior executive/manager from 1982 to 1994, Schwartz became an executive with the Stamps organization. He served as team president from 1996 to 2003, general partner from 2005 to 2012, then as executive vice-president and a consultant in various roles with the club until 2016.
His tenure included overseeing the club through some of its lean years. When funds were tight, Schwartz had no problem making sacrifices.
“If I’m not mistaken, Stan once worked a whole month without being paid because when we were in receivership, they weren’t paying a lot of people,” Wally Buono, the Stamps’ coach and GM at the time, told Postmedia in March, 2017.
“I learned from Tony Anselmo, who’s in the Hall of Fame (builder, 2009) that this is a team game. I don’t ever recall putting myself ahead of the players and the coaches.”
“We went through some very, very difficult times. Stan’s leadership, never-give-up attitude and mental toughness were a big part of us staying the course when things were tough.”
“Yes. We did that,” Schwartz says, only after told of what Buono said. “Credit to Wally. Basically myself and Wally always wanted to make sure the players were looked after and unfortunately some of the staff would occasionally miss a pay cheque.”
In total, Schwartz played a role in ownership change four times (1995, 2001, 2005 and 2012) in his tenure with the Stampeders. Getting local ownership in 2005 and retaining it in 2012 with the Calgary Sports Entertainment Corporation assuming control of the team, gave it the stability it needed in years past.
“When you have nine teams in the CFL, if one team struggles it can become very, very difficult,” Schwartz says.
“Professional football in Canada is not a big money proposition. No one’s going to get rich. A lot of the owners are doing it because of their commitment to a long standing Canadian tradition. They don’t want to lose money but any owner that goes into the business knows full well that they’re not going to make a pile of money.”
He looks back on his career and still remembers the advice he received from Anselmo all those years ago now. It may have already been ingrained in him, but his selflessness served him well.
“I know at times I’ve been accused of doing things in a quiet, unassuming way,” he says. “That was my way of doing business and I appreciated the support that I did get from Tony and the advice. It worked for me.”