Bud Adams, former Houston Oilers owner, dies

He was the man who brought professional football to Houston

HOUSTON - Former Houston Oilers and current Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams passed away Monday morning at his Houston home.

After starting an energy company in Houston in the 1940s, Adams, along with Lamar Hunt of Dallas, announced the formation of the American Football League in 1959. The following year, Adams brought professional football to Houston as the Oilers started playing in the AFL.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Adams a pioneer and innovator and extended the league's sympathies to Adams' family.

"As a founding owner of the American Football League that began play in 1960, Bud saw the potential of pro football and brought the game to new cities and new heights of popularity, first in Houston and then in Nashville," Goodell said in a statement. "He was a brilliant entrepreneur with a terrific sense of humor that helped lighten many a tense meeting."

The Oilers appeared in four AFL championship games in the '60s and won twice -- in 1960 and 1961.

Then in 1970, the AFL merged with the National Football League, with the Oilers joining the newly expanded league. The Oilers made the playoffs 10 years during their time in Houston, including seven consecutive appearances from 1987-1993 and three straight appearances from 1978-1980.

"He was a very controversial person," former Oilers quarterback Dan Pastorini said.  "He did things his way whether they were right or wrong. Whether everbody agreed with him or not, he had the gumption to stand his ground and make his own decision."

Adams hired Bum Phillips as coach of the Oilers in 1975 and Phillips guided them to those three straight playoff appearances during the 'Luv Ya Blue' era, until Adams fired him in 1980. Phillips died last Friday.

"Both of them had great lives,"  said former Oilers coach Ed Biles, who replaced Phillips in 1981.  "Both had a lot of accomplishments in their age. God  bless them both."

"Even though they're not around anymore, " Pastorini said.   "I think the  'Luv Ya Blue' era will last forever and (Bud) gave us that opportunity which I'm grateful for." 

Adams was a polarizing figure during his ownership of the Oilers. After a long but unsuccessful argument for a new football stadium, Adams moved the team from Houston to Nashville in 1997. Two seasons later, after retiring the Oilers name and renaming the team as the Titans, Tennessee went to Super Bowl XXXIV where the Titans lost to the St. Louis Rams.

"I'm extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Bud Adams," wrote former Titans head coach and current St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. "Mr. Adams gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL, and I'm eternally grateful to him for that. We enjoyed a great deal of success together during my 17 seasons with the organization, and I'll cherish those memories for the rest of my life. My respect for Mr. Adams goes well beyond the owner/coach relationship that we shared for many years. He was a pioneer in the football business. He played a key role in creating and sustaining the American Football League, which helped push the popularity of our game to where it is today. My thoughts and prayers are with the Adams family during this difficult time."

According to an Adams' biography released by the  Titans, "His success and longevity led him to accumulate more wins than any other current NFL owner (409) at the time of his passing. He saw his 400th career win (regular season and playoffs) in the 2011 season finale at Houston as the Titans defeated the Texans."

The Titans say Adams passed away peacefully Monday morning at his home in Houston. He was 90.

Condolences came from all over the NFL Monday. Below is other reaction to the death of Adams:

"When my father Lamar set out to start a new league to rival the NFL in 1959, the first person he went to visit was Bud Adams. Lamar, Bud and the other visionary owners of the American Football League believed that fans across the country would embrace pro football if given the chance, and they were right. ... Lamar and Bud enjoyed a friendship that spanned five decades and saw the emergence of pro football as America's Game. Our family will always appreciate Bud's spirited and enthusiastic support of my father's "foolish" idea, and we are saddened today by the news of his passing." -- Kansas City Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt

"He could have just eased through life. A lot of people do that, and he didn't. He went out and lived it. He did things the way he wanted to, and sometimes we'd all wring our hands when he said what he wanted to. And I admire him for it. Probably most of us should do a little more of that." -- Phil Bredesen, former Nashville mayor and Tennessee governor who negotiated the Oilers' relocation with Adams

"We are sad to hear about the passing of Titans Owner Bud Adams. I will never forget when I first bought the Redskins how gracious he was and the passion that he had for pro football. It was wonderful to be one of his friends." -- Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder

"Loyalty was always a strong trademark of Bud Adams. He turned down an opportunity to place an NFL team in Houston, because he had already made a prior commitment to Lamar Hunt and the AFL. Bud was a role model for me.  He was a great man and a great Texan. He will be missed and remembered." -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

"Tennesseans will remember and always be grateful to Bud Adams for bringing us the excitement of professional football, as well as for his big and generous heart." -- U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R.-Tenn.

"Bud obviously played a critical role in bringing professional football to Nashville and Tennessee. Nashville has grown and exploded. Honestly, being the home of a professional football team has made a big difference there. I did not know Bud had passed away. I'm really sad to hear that, sorry for his family. It's think it's really important we recognize the contribution he's made to the state." -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam

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