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Bud Adams dies at age 90

The only era the Tennessee Titans franchise has ever known came to and end Monday morning after nearly 54 years as franchise owner K.S. "Bud" Adams died this morning in Houston. He was 90.

Adams founded the team as the Houston Oilers in 1959 as part of the American Football League, which began play in 1960 with eight teams and owners who became known as "The Foolish Club" for attempting to take on the established National Football League.

Adams, along with founding AFL owners Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs (Dallas Texans originally) and Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills saw the project through to a merger with the NFL a decade later that turned their initial $25,000 investment into a multi-million dollar success.

Adams' Oilers were the dominant team in he early days of the AFL winning the league's first two titles in 1960 and '61.

During his time, Adams endured many ups and downs with the franchise with highlights including the Luv Ya Blue era of the late '70s with Coach Bum Phillips , who ironically died this past weekend.

Other highs included making seven straight postseason appearances in the '80s and '90s with quarterback Warren Moon, and linemen that included current Titans head coach Mike Munchak and current offensive line coach Bruce Matthews. All three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But Adams biggest move other than founding the franchise and merging it with the NFL was his move to Tennessee in 1997. It marked the firs major professional sports team to call Tennessee home. The transition culminated with the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance following the 1999 season. That was also the team's first year as the Titans and first season in its current stadium home now known as LP Field.

The arrival of the Titans and the NHL expansion Nashville Predators in 1998 signaled a new day for Nashville, as the city became recognized as a viable and legitimate metropolitan city due in part to the pro sports coming to town. Adams and then Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen were instrumental in making the Titans and pro sports a reality in Music City.

In recent years and especially following the death of his wife Nancy in 2009, Adams took less of a role in the day-to-day operation of the club. His declining health and being 800 miles away from the club played a huge role in that.
Back in 2011, Adams told The Nashville Ledger that he had a succession plan in place that included his grandson Kenneth Adams IV playing a vital role in running the Titans.

“I think he’s gonna develop into being one of our leaders down the road,” Bud Adams said in a 2011 interview. “I think he likes what he’s doing, and he works absolutely hard."

The younger Adams, now 28, began learning the ropes of virtually every aspect of the organization in 2006 after graduating from The University of The South.

Also, the families of Adams two surviving daughters, Susie Smith and Amy Strunk, will also inherit a share of the team. Past indications are that neither of them has an interest in running the daily operations of the club.

  • Reaction to Bud's passing.

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some reaction Monday to the death of Titans owner Bud Adams. He was 90.

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    "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

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    "As original AFL team owners, we all shared a common bond and a deep sense of pride in where we started in 1960 to where the NFL is today and how much our fans enjoy the game of professional football. Bud certainly played an important role in the growth and development of our game and today I am remembering with great fondness all the laughs we shared with the special memories over the years. Through it all, our teams played some of the most memorable games in AFL and NFL history."

    — Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr.

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    "His commitment to the best interests of the game and league was unwavering, and his personal along with the team's impact in community relations and philanthropy set a standard for the NFL. Bud was truly a gift to the NFL. We extend our deepest sympathy to his daughters Susan and Amy, and the entire family."

    — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

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    "We have been friends for over 30 years and our city has lost a great Houstonian. Bud brought football to Houston as the city's first professional sports venture. As a founding member of the AFL, Bud had a vision, he saw the league through tough years and was instrumental in the AFL merging to become the NFL we know and love today. ...Bud knew I had a passion for NFL ownership and helped me along the path toward where I am now. In the early 1990s, he was vital in getting me involved with the NFL which eventually led to expansion."

    — Houston Texans owner Bob McNair

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    "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."

    — St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, former Oilers-Titans coach between November 1994 and January 2011

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    "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

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    "He would come up at times and always would be in the locker room after games. ... He had been around for so long, he had seen so many different things. There was definitely a feeling in our locker room, coaching staff and whole organization that we wanted to go out and win for him. We got to the Super Bowl, but we were a couple plays short of being able to present him a trophy."

    — Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and former Titans defensive coordinator

    "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

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    "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

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    "Anyone who has ever enjoyed the experience of NFL football - fans, sponsors, business partners, players, coaches, club staff and club owners - owes Bud Adams a tremendous debt of gratitude today."

    — Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank

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    "Mr. Adams was profoundly instrumental in the growth of professional football and his historical influence on our game is undeniable. His contributions will continue to positively impact the communities of Houston and the state of Tennessee as well as the entire NFL."

    — Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand

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    "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.

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    "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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