AFL pioneer, Titans owner 'Bud' Adams dies at 90
OCT 21, 2013 12:43p ET
Adams, a member of the famed "Foolish Club" of original American Football League owners who directly challenged the NFL's lofty standing in the sports marketplace from 1960-69 before a watershed merger in 1970, founded the Oilers a few months before Ralph C. Wilson launched the Buffalo Bills (1959).
Entering this season, Adams and Wilson were the remaining survivors of the "Foolish Club," which also included Bob Howsam ( Denver Broncos), F. Wayne Valley ( Oakland Raiders), Billy Sullivan (Boston Patriots), Barron Hilton (Los Angeles Chargers), Harry Wismer (New York Jets) and Lamar Hunt, the late patriarch of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs, who has been credited with conceiving the AFL's development plan and coining the term 'Super Bowl' for the annual NFL-AFL championship game.
An Oklahoma native who played collegiate football at Kansas, Adams entered the oil business in the 1940s after serving a naval stint in World War II. His professional success led to a desire to purchase controlling interest of the NFL's Chicago Cardinals in the 1950s — which didn't pan out before the club soon relocated to St. Louis.
That passion for pro football seamlessly transferred over to the AFL, where Hunt, Wilson and Adams — spurned by the NFL elitists in different markets — helped form a league that would bring an up-tempo, pass-friendly brand of football to "expansion" cities like Buffalo, San Diego, Oakland, Denver and Boston.
(The AFL's aggressive expansion prompted the NFL to create the Minnesota Vikings, a franchise that had originally agreed to launch in the start-up league.)
With the Oilers and Titans, Adams spearheaded the following innovations or accomplishments:
**The Oilers reached the AFL championship four times in a seven-year span (1960-62, 1967), capturing the league's inaugural titles in 1960 and '61 (with Hall of Famer George Blanda at quarterback).
**In 1968, the Oilers became the first team to play their regular-season games indoors — at the famed Astrodome.
**Led by the late 'Bum' Phillips and Hall of Fame back Earl Campbell, the "Luv Ya Blue" Oilers reached the AFC championship game for the 1978 and '79 seasons — only to fall to the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers both times.
**The Oilers made the AFC playoffs for seven consecutive seasons (1987-93), with Jerry Glanville and the late Jack Pardee as the respective head coaches.
Adams relocated the franchise to Tennessee, prior to the '97 campaign, with the club hosting temporary home games at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis ... before moving to a new stadium in downtown Nashville (which has produced 150 straight sellouts).
For the '99 season, behind quarterback Steve McNair and tailback Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans claimed the AFC title and finished one yard short of forcing a regulation-time tie against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
By all indications, Adams' family will maintain principal ownership of the Titans, ensuring the franchise's continued stay in Nashville and honoring the late owner's six-decade legacy in pro football.
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