“Bud” Adams, a Texas oilman who brought the National Football League to Nashville and ignited the city’s love affair with the Tennessee Titans, died on Monday at his Houston home. He was 90.
Adams founded the Houston Oilers in 1959 as part of the new AmericanFootball League. Until his death, he remained owner, chairman of the board, and president and CEO of the franchise that became the Titans in 1999 after a controversial departure from Houston.
He was one of only four NFL owners to reach the 350-win plateau, a milestone he shared with Ralph Wilson (Buffalo Bills), Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Al Davis (Oakland/Los AngelesR a iders). A d a m s ‘ f r a n c h i s e earned 21 playoff app e a r a n c e s in 54 seasons – a total that ranks fifth a l l – t i m e among NFL teams since 1960 – but has yet to realize his dream of winning a Super Bowl.
“I’d like to wear (a ring)that says, ‘Super Bowl champions’ on there. … I’ll keep my fi ngers crossed,” Adams said in a 2009 interview. “But at my age I just take it one day, one game at a time. You can’t build your hopes up.” Adams was a trendsetter with a lifelong love of sports and a fondness for Houston, which refused to build him a new stadium when he thought the Astrodome became unsuitable for his NFL team.Although he relocated his franchise to Nashville in 1997, Adams kept his office and residence in Houston until his death.
During a 2009 interview, former Titans coach Jeff Fisher ca lled Ada ms a great owner. Adams hired Fisher in 1995, but in early 2011, the coach and the Titans parted ways after 17 seasons. Fisher was named head coach of the St. Louis Rams in January 2012.
“From a head coaching standpoint, you can’t ask for a better situation as far as a relationship with an owner,” Fisher said. “He is 100 percent supportive of everything we have attempted to do and tried to do and even failed at doing. He is behind us and is very generous and understands the game very well and really, really enjoys this team.
“He expects anybody and everybody who works for him to work hard. He has a standard. And he expects loyalty, not only to him but to everyone who works for him, to one a nother.” Current Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fa me offen sive l i nem a n with the Houston Oilers, was selected by Adams to replace Fisher.
In 2008, Adams received the inaugural Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which recognized his vision and his role in helping the NFL reach preeminent status.
Adams and Hunt announced the formation of the AFL in Adams’ office in 1959, and the Oilers began playing in 1960.
Adams’ wife of 62 years, Nancy, died in February 2009.
THE BUSINESS OF FOOTBALL
Adams was born Jan. 3, 1923, in Bartlesville, Okla. He played football, basketball and baseball at Culver Military Academy, and graduated in 1940. He attended Menlo College in California, then transferred to the engineering department at the University of Kansas, where he also lettered in football.
Adams joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1942 and was later sent overseas and assigned to a carrier unit, where he served as aviation-engineering officer. He was discha rged from the Navy in 1946, the same year he started ADA Oil Co..
It was the first of many business interests for Adams, but he always had his mind on sports. Eventually he would own professional baseball and basketball teams, and was involved inboxing.
Football went to the front burner in 1959, when Adams launched Houston’s AFL franchise as Hunt started one in Dallas.
The Oilers were among the dominant AFL teams in the 1960s, playing in four championship games, and winning titles in 1960 and ’61. In 1970, when the AFL merged with the longestablished NFL, the Oilers continued to have success, making the playoffs 10 times.
The Oilers played their final season in Houston in 1996. In 1997, Adams moved them to Nashville, where they were called the Tennessee Oilers while playing home games at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis (’97) and Vanderbilt Stadium (’98) in Nashville.
In 1999, as finishing touches were placed on a new downtown stadium in Nashville, Adams changed the team nickname to Titans.
Phil Bredesen was Nashville’s mayor when Adams called with a proposal to move the Oilers to Music City. In an interview with The Tennessean, Bredesen said he had tremendous respect for Adams, and the franchise has meant more to Nashville than anyone would have imagined when it arrived.
“I am sure there are still some people who don’t like it, but overwhelmingly people have seen what it has done for the city. … I have very high regard for Mr. Adams and I honestly believe it has vastly exceeded anyone’s expectations,” Bredesen said.