The New England Patriots suspended Coach Chuck Fairbanks without pay yesterday because he had accepted a job to coach the University of Colorado football team.
Assistants Hank Bullock and Ron Erhardt were named acting head coaches for last night's game in Miami. One of them probably will be hired as head coach of the National Football League team later, club officials said.
"He (Fairbanks) told me that he would like to continue for the remaining games," owner William Sullivan said. "I told him that while I had a great deal of respect for him, it was said in biblical times that no man can serve two masters. As good as you (Fairbanks are no one can run a recruiting program (at Colorado) and coach a team into the Super Bowl."
No one contacted at Colorado would confirm that Fairbanks had been hired to take over a team that posted a 6-5 season this year.
Sullivan said he had refused to release Fairbanks from the remaining four years-plus an option year-on his contract with the Patriots.
"I asked him to postpone his decision until after the Super Bowl," Sullivan said. "But he said they had to have an answer immediately at Colorado so their recruiting program would not be delayed...when an employevoids the contract, we notify the league and the employe in so doing is suspended without compensation."
Sullivan, at a halftime news conference following an apparently tense locker room conference immediately before the game in which Fairbanks told the team owner he intended to coach the team, said, "I told him to get out. He asked me if I wanted to fire him. I said, no, I didn't want to set him up for a settlement."
Asked about a lawsuit for tampering against the University, Sullivan replied, "I'm not going to reveal my game plan to the University of Colorado."
He added he thought Fairbanks. "showed a great example of what the Jewish people would call 'chutzpah' -unmitigated gall," by showing up in the locker room.
Fairbanks,who joined the Patriots in 1973, told his players at 3:30p.m. yesterday he would not be their coach next year. About 45 minutes later, Sullivan said, Fiarbanks told team officials.
"The Patriots would welcome him back as head coach if he will notify the University of Colorado he is withdrawing his acceptance and will fulfill the terms of his contract with us," said Charles Sullivan, the team's vice president.
"It's a tremendous disappointment to me," said the owner. "I think Chuck Fairbanks has made it (New England) one of the most successful teams in the league. It was a difficult decision."
Fairbanks rode the team bus to the Orange Bowl. But he refused to answer reporters' questions about his decision.
Colorado's inducement for him to leave the NFL reportedly was substantial. It is believed to include a large piece of a multimillion-dollar golf resort being development near Denver by Jack Vickers, president of Vickers Petroleum, and a spot on a radio show sponsored by Continental Airlines, headed by Colorado football booster Robert Six.
The golf deal could make Fairbanks a millionaire, the TV deal is reportedly worth $15,000 a year. The coaching job at Colorado would pay about $35,000.
Fairbanks had four years remaining on a contract believed worth $150,000 a year.
Fairbanks had built a strong running game and a tough defense to turn New England into a winner. He guided the Patriots to an 11-3 record in 1976, the franchise's best season to date, and last year barely missed the playoffs with a 9-5 mark.