New England Patriot Coach Chuck Fairbanks, who came to an agreement today with Patriot officials to he will become the football coach at the University of Colorado.
Emerging from three days of hiding, a solemn and weary Fairbanks said, "I wanted to get back to the college atmosphere. The circle of friends is different. It's a different game.
"I've fulfilled the job I came here to do," said Fairbanks, who was suspended Monday night in Miami by Patroit owner William H. Sullivan Jr. for accepting the Colorado job while still under contract with the Patriots.
Fairbanks' suspension was lifted by the Patriots yesterday after he sent a telegram to Colorado saying he was "not in a position at this time to engage in further negotiations."
The Washington Post learned that Fairbanks sent the telegram to Colorado yesterday under threat of legal action by the Patriots.
Sullivan said the team and Fairbanks' lawyer, John C. Russell, will negotiate an agreement on the remaining four years of Fairbanks' $150,000 a year NFL contract.
The Patriots will play either Denver or Houston on Dec. 31 in the American Conference semifinals after having clinched the AFC East title, capping Fairbanks' six-year pro career.
"We are delighted that Chuck Fairbanks is going to be the coach of the New England Patriots in the playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl," said Colorando Athletic Director Eddie Crowder. "At the conclusion of the Patriots' postseason endeavors, he will be the University of Colorado's football coach."
The tangle developed Monday when Sullivan suspended Fairbanks hours before a nationally televised game against the Dolphins in Miami. Two Patriot assistants, Ron Erhardt and Hank Bullough, were put in charge.
Sullivan said today the search for a new, permanent New England coach will begin after the playoffs.
The telegram sent by Fairbanks to Crowder was the move that cleared the way for Fairbanks to return to the NFL team temporarily, as many veterans on the squad desired.
The coach, however, made it clear, "I have not rejected the offer from Colorado." He simply told the school he cannot now sign a contract.
"We will be happy to have him [Fairbanks] back here to get the team ready for th biggest chapter in the history of the Patriots," said Sullivan.
"It is my utmost concern that the club have its best chance to be successful in the playoffs," Fairbanks said. "I'm pleased to have the opportunity to coach during the playoffs."
The agreement enabling Fairbanks to return was negotiated by his lawyer and Chuck Sullivan, a lawyer and son of the Patriot owner, in New York.
"I think we have a chance for a championship," said the elder Sullivan, "and I was concerned that the absence of this man could hurt us."
Fairbanks denied that one reason he accepted the Colorado job on a verbal basis initially was to begin immediate recruiting.
"It's never been my intention to be actively involved in recruiting at this time," he said. "It's not an ego thing with me. We've had a great deal of turmoil. I hope I can bring it together. One of my fondest ambitions is to bring a championship to New England."
Asked why he had denied as recently as last Sunday the persistent reports he had been offered the Colorado job, Fairbanks said: "My statements were not entirely correct. I was placed in a position where there was nothing I could says at that time. I should have made no comment. I regret making the statements."
Later he said: "I came here to find out if I could be successful as a professional coach. It was not necessarily a case of money. I was making [at Oklahoma] somewhere in the neighborhood of what I am now."
"Whatever happens from here on in, I know in my own mind that I can be successful coaching at this level. Before the last game [a 23-3 loss at Miami Mondy night], the New England Patriots were three victories short of having the best record in all of professional football over the last three years."
Fairbanks said that the University of Colorado approached him first about the coaching job there.However, he declined to say when.
On going to Colorado, he said: "There's a lot of things about college work I am looking forward to. And, because of what has happened in the development of this team, this is a good time to make a change."
Sullivan spend much of today in New York meeting with his son before returning to his Foxboro office at 3:45 p.m. Sullivan said that a group of 12 players had urged him in Miami to take Fairbanks back, and a group of four did the same on the team's return home. He indicated veteran linebacker Steve Zabel was a leader in both groups.
"Steve Zabel made a very strong pitch," Sullivan said. "Zabel said he had been in football for 23 years and he wanted a chance at a championship."