December 18, 2001

A Shocking Look For Jerry Smith

Dec. 14, 2001

Tom FitzGerald
San Francisco Chronicle

It worked for Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Eminem and Fabio, and now it has worked for Jerry Smith. The coach of the Santa Clara women's soccer team became a blond, and all of a sudden everything turned golden.

After seven unsuccessful trips to the NCAA semifinals, Smith finally won a title Sunday when the Broncos beat North Carolina -- the Yankees of women's soccer -- 1-0 in Dallas. They won their six playoff games with their straight- laced, 40-year-old coach sporting a David Bowie coif. Was it the new look that changed his luck?

Earlier this season, Smith had challenged his team to win the West Coast Conference and help the school capture the first Commissioner's Cup, which goes to the school that posts the best WCC record overall in men's and women's sports. The players said, in essence, "Fine. But if we do, we want something from you in return."

They won the WCC title, and here's what the trade-off turned out to be. Before the Broncos' first-round game against Evansville in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 15, the players took Smith, who has dark brown hair, to a hairstylist in a nearby mall. They told him not to look in the mirror until the bleaching job was complete.

"I was just shocked," he told Open Season from Maui, where he and his wife, World Cup hero Brandi Chastain, were vacationing. "My hair was fluorescent yellow, not a normal color you'd see on somebody's head. It looked absolutely ridiculous."

As part of the deal, he also agreed to have his ear pierced. So in the same mall, the players joyfully had somebody put a hole in his head. "They picked out a huge dangling earring, but I wouldn't do that," he said. "I ended up with a small, faux-diamond ear stud."

Over the next 3 1/2 weeks, which included the nationally televised final, he kept hearing, "What were you thinking?"

"It was embarrassing and ridiculous," said Smith, whose hair is back to its natural color, "but I'm all for having a little fun in what we're doing. Hopefully, the next time we do something like this, it won't be so shocking."