FULLERTON - Former NFL Coach and Fullerton College quarterback Jim Fassel passed away from a heart attack Monday morning in Las Vegas, Nevada stunning many who love and admire him.
Jim Fassel played quarterback at Fullerton College in 1967 and 1968, and helped lead the Hornet football squad to the 1967 national title under head coach Hal Sherbeck. A few of the FC records still hold strong today such as Most TD Passes in a Game (6 vs OCC) and Most Points in a Game (68 vs Cypress).
In 1969 Jim transferred to Long Beach State where he played QB and graduated in 1972. He was then drafted by the NFL's Chicago Bears in the 4th round and traded to the San Diego Chargers finishing the 1972 season with the Houston Oilers. In 1973 Fassel played in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts and finished the year with as a player and coach with Hawaii in the WFL.
In 1974 Fassel joined the Hornet coaching staff for a season, and then moved on as an assistant coach at Utah in 1976. Jim would become the offensive coordinator at Weber State for the 1977 and 1978 seasons before taking control of an offense at Stanford that had a young budding quarterback in John Elway (79-83). He coached with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL in 1984. From 1985 to 1989 Fassel was the head football coach at the University of Utah. The NFL came calling again for Jim in 1990 as the New York Giants hired him as their new offensive coordinator (90-92). Fassel would work as an offensive coordinator for a few other NFL teams (Denver, Oakland, and Arizona) before he would become the head coach of the New York Giants (97-03). His years as the Giants head coach saw Jim become an NFC Champion (2000), NFL Coach of the Year (1997), and Consensus NFL Coach of the Year (2000). From 2004-06 Fassel was the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, and then in 2009 he returned as the head coach for the United Football League's Las Vegas Locomotives, where he won two consecutive UFL championships.
A TRUE HORNET
Jim was always there for his Hornets when called upon, especially when it involved Coach Hal Sherbeck. Fassel came to Fullerton College after graduating from Anaheim High School where Coach Sherbeck took the budding football mind under his wing. A strong bond between the two quickly formed. When Jim's playing days were behind him, he was invited to coach the Hornet football team where he cut his teeth with Sherbeck during the 1974 season. From there, Fassel learned the ins and outs of coaching at Utah, Weber State, and Stanford before moving up in the professional ranks with the USFL's New Orleans Breakers in 1984. In between all the of the seasons were frequent phone calls to Coach Sherbeck and the Hornet coaching staff. In 1985, Jim became the head coach for the University of Utah, and then in 1990 he was hired by the New York Giants as the Offensive Coordinator. Still, Fassel never forgot to call home. Coaching for other NFL teams (Denver, Oakland, and Arizona) came and went, until Fassel was hired as the Head Coach of the New York Giants in 1997. When Jim led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV in 2000, one of his first calls was to Sherbeck letting his old Hornet coach know that he was flying him out to the game with a field pass. When Sherbeck passed in 2014, Fassel was there again for his coach planning for his celebration of life that was held on the FC campus. Jim also played a big role in the creation of Sherbeck's life-size statue that stands before the field named after him. No matter how busy he got with his demanding job, Jim always took the time reach out to his Hornet home, whether it was the Fullerton College staff, teammates, or fans. He was a good man that never got too big for the game he loved, and he always considered himself a Hornet through and through. Coach Fassel was a positive force that touched many people throughout his life and will undoubtedly be missed.
"Jim and I were very, very close. I am blessed to have had him for an athlete and friend. Jim never forgot his roots… he always supported Anaheim High School as well as THE HORNETS. He called me several weeks ago, as was his custom every 6 weeks or so, just to see how I was doing- a tremendous loss for mankind", Fullerton College Head Athletic Trainer Bill Chambers.
Jim was inducted into the Fullerton College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007. He is survived by his wife Kitty and five children.
James Edward Fassel 1949-2021
(Phil Thurman, Fullerton College Athletics)