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Roman, Erl | University of Miami Finding Aids

Name: Roman, Erl

Historical Note:

Before working at the University of Miami, Erl Roman established a reputation as a fisherman and writer. He fished throughout the United States, in Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and the West Indies, and held several fishing records. Roman also launched a crusade for fresh water conservation in Florida and

contributed to the passage of state conservation game and fish laws. Roman also played a key role in promoting the University of Miami. He held a public relations position in the University's Office of Public Information from 1946-64, promoted the University of Miami football team and publicized the Marine Laboratory. Roman also taught a fishing course, coached the polo team and contributed to the university in numerous ways.

Roman's knowledge of sport fishing led to a successful writing career. After graduating from Baltimore City College, he wrote Fishing for Fun in Salty Waters. Numerous outdoor magazines also published his articles. For 17 years, Roman was fishing editor for the Miami Herald, and he held positions as second fishing editor of America and editor of Outdoorsman Magazine.

In addition to fishing, Roman displayed an avid interest in college football. He first supported the University of Miami team during the early 1930's, initiating a lifelong connection with the University. In 1933 Roman helped organize and promote the first "Palm Festival" game which brought the school national publicity and set the precedent for what became known as the "Orange Bowl Game." Roman also aided the team through his donation of the mascot "Touchdown Tommy"--a small canon decorated in school colors.

In 1935, a University of Miami cheerleader originated the practice of firing a canon whenever the football team scored. Two years later Erl Roman painted a salute gun and presented it to the team. The canon, named "Touchdown Tommy," was fired "...on the opening kickoff, on the advent of all scores, at the opening of the second half, and at the end of the game, steadily building up a tradition..."

He also organized "The Quarterback's Club" in 1938, to garner financial support for the team. The Club familiarized Dade County residents with the University of Miami, increased game attendance, raised funds for the football team, and provided aid for players.  An "Entertainment Committee" planned events for visiting squads, and organized dinners and awards banquets. The "Publicity Committee" advertised the club, and the "Block Membership Committee" focused on soliciting large donations from "business firms, movie houses, et be used in obtaining outstanding football talent." The club paid for players' hospitalization insurance and trips home, and for coaches' scouting expenses. Club members entertained and acquainted players with the Miami area, and placed them in jobs during school vacations and after graduation.

Roman actively promoted University of Miami football in his capacity as a publicist and in personal and business correspondence. In his letters Roman often discussed attendance at football games and described the excitement of the crowds. In an attempt to interest a journalist in Miami football, Roman wrote that "Football enthusiasm here really is excessive. It's the damndest thing I've ever seen anywhere...I'll get busy and dig up dope for the article on the football games and crowds, and I'll predict that it will make the most interesting football story ever carried in the Post."

In 1946, University of Miami President Bowman F. Ashe requested that Roman work for the University's Office of Public Information. Roman accepted the public relations position which involved the promotion of numerous aspects of the university including those with which he was personally involved: polo, football, the Marine Laboratory and Adult Division Courses. He also wrote or obtained press releases covering university news.

While at the University of Miami, Roman introduced a "Fresh and Salt Water Fishing Class" offered through the Physical Education Department and by the Adult Education Division. For ten years Roman taught this two credit course which drew Dade County residents and tourists as well as students. The polo team, organized in 1947, became another of Roman's projects. He coached the team, leading it to a number of National Championship victories and issued press releases to popularize the sport. Roman also played an instrumental role in the establishment of the first chapter of a national fraternity on campus, and he founded the Symphony Club to aid the developing orchestra.

In his official capacity as publicist, Roman concentrated on public relations in two areas. In correspondence dated 1953 Roman  reported that he was "...mainly concerned with the Marine Laboratory and the athletic department..." two areas he "always sort of specialized in." Using his organizational and publicity skills as he had on behalf of the football team, Roman increased financial backing of the Marine Lab and promoted the institution When the lab was founded in 1942, it lacked funds, buildings and staff. Roman introduced the lab's director to donors who funded the construction of three buildings as well as numerous research projects. Roman participated in and advertised much of this research. The lab, originally staffed by two scientists and housed in an abandoned boathouse on Miami Beach, rapidly became a productive research center with a forty member team. Following his retirement in 1964, Roman continued to raise money for this facility, later known as the Marine Institute, and to promote the University of Miami.

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