[R.I.P.] Lamar Hunt (11/14/06) Pioneering NFL/AFL Owner
- Lamar Hunt, a Force in Football, Dies at 74
By GERALD ESKENAZI
Lamar Hunt has been inducted into eight halls of fame, including ones
for football, soccer and tennis as well as the Texas Business Hall of
Lamar Hunt, whose father's Texas oil fortune gave him the springboard
to become a prime founder of the American Football League and who
gave the Super Bowl its name, died Wednesday night in Dallas. He was
74. The cause was complications of prostate cancer, according to a
spokesman for the National Football League team that Hunt owned, the
Kansas City Chiefs.
In 1966, the N.F.L. and the A.F.L. agreed to merge. In the
negotiations, Lamar Hunt had a leading role representing his league.
Hunt was a geologist by training, with a degree from Southern
Methodist University, where he was a reserve tight end on the
football team, but he was no dilettante when it came to owning sports
teams. While leading various business ventures, he was also serious
about tennis and soccer, helping to create leagues for those sports
as well. He is in the halls of fame of all three sports.
At his death he also retained an interest in the Chicago Bulls
basketball franchise as an original owner.
But it was as a football man a sport he loved to tinker with, and
whose statistics and minutiae he enjoyed immensely that Hunt left
his greatest sports legacy.
He liked to describe himself as part of "the foolish club," the
founders of the A.F.L., which challenged the entrenched N.F.L. in
Hunt was the owner of the A.F.L.'s Dallas Texans, a team that moved
to Kansas City in 1963 and became the Chiefs. At his death he was one
of three original A.F.L. owners still heading their franchises. The
others are Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Adams of the
Tennessee Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers.
Hunt had an unpretentious, soft-spoken manner. Once, when a Chiefs
official described him as the team's owner, Hunt corrected
him. "Please call me the founder," he said. (Founder is his title in
the Chiefs' media guide.)
His son Clark is the Chiefs' chairman. Survivors also include Hunt's
wife, Norma; a daughter, Sharron Munson; two other sons, Lamar Jr.
and Daniel; and 14 grandchildren. Hunt's first marriage, to Rosemary
Carr, with whom he had two children, ended in divorce.
In 1959, the 27-year-old Hunt had been unsuccessful in acquiring an
N.F.L. franchise for Dallas, where he lived. The N.F.L. was quite
content to remain a 12-team league.
So Hunt decided to form a rival league to begin play in 1960. He
worked out the rudimentary plans on an airplane letterhead while
flying. As usual, he flew coach, despite being a son of the
billionaire H. L. Hunt.
Lamar Hunt preserved that stationery, as he did so many other
artifacts, in a limestone cave north of Kansas City, Mo. Notes he
doodled on, snippets of phone conversations, anything that he felt
had some interest or jogged his memory or brought him a chuckle, he
Although he became one of the most important owners in pro football,
with the American Football Conference championship trophy bearing his
name, he was not always part of the establishment. In fact, the
N.F.L. failed to appreciate having a rival league in the burgeoning
city of Dallas, where Hunt's Texans had set up shop, so it decided to
put an N.F.L. franchise there the Cowboys.
In 1966, the N.F.L. and the A.F.L. agreed to merge. In the
negotiations, Hunt had a leading role representing his league and Tex
Schramm, the Cowboys' owner, did the same for the N.F.L. Although the
leagues would not formally merge until 1970, they planned a
championship game, to be held after the 1966 season. Hunt's Chiefs
lost to the Green Bay Packers in that January 1967 game that became
known as the first Super Bowl.
Hunt recalled that in the discussion of playoff games, "the words
flowed something like this: `No, not those games the one I mean is
the final game. You know, the Super Bowl.' "
He added: "My own feeling is that it probably registered in my head
because my daughter, Sharron, and my son Lamar Jr. had a children's
toy called a Super Ball, and I probably interchanged the phonetics
of `bowl' and `ball.' "
But the first two games had a less compelling title: the A.F.L.-
N.F.L. World Championship Game. After two years, Hunt's Super Bowl
interjection became the name of the game. Then, in a note to N.F.L.
Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt had the whimsical thought that Roman
numerals gave the game "more dignity." After the third Super Bowl,
Roman numerals were grandfathered in.
Over the years, Hunt, a native of El Dorado, Ark., separated himself
financially from the more publicized side of his family, the Hunts of
Texas. H. L. Hunt, the patriarch, had been a professional gambler who
parlayed a few oil leases bought with money won at the poker table
into one of the nation's largest fortunes.
Lamar Hunt did retain his interest in various family oil businesses,
but he branched out into real estate. In Kansas City, he helped
develop the theme parks known as Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun. He
also tried to buy Alcatraz, the island in San Francisco Bay that once
housed a federal prison, and develop it as a tourist park and
shopping destination. The idea, put forward in 1969, was dropped in
the face of local protests.
Along with two brothers, William Herbert and Nelson Bunker, Hunt
tried to corner the world silver market in 1979 and 1980. In 1988, a
federal court ordered the brothers and other defendants to pay more
than $130 million in damages to Minpeco S.A., a commodities concern
owned by the government of Peru. The brothers saw some large oil
investments sour in the 1980s, by some estimates depleting the family
fortune by billions of dollars. William and Nelson are among Lamar's
survivors, as are several other brothers and sisters.
Throughout his business career, Hunt remained active in sports. He
was a founder of World Championship Tennis, and he helped bring about
the North American Soccer League, which put the game in major league
stadiums across North America. He also owned the minor league
baseball Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs for a time. More recently, he and
his sons owned Hunt Sports Group, which manages professional soccer
teams in Dallas and Columbus, Ohio.
As the Chiefs' owner, he didn't meddle. "On Sunday nights after a
game, he would always call," the Chiefs' coach, Herm Edwards, told
The Associated Press yesterday. "It would be about 9:30 or 10 o'clock
and the phone would ring and I knew it was Lamar. He always said, `Am
I bothering you?' "
But he kept an apartment at Arrowhead Stadium, and his team was
hugely successful early on. In addition to playing in the first Super
Bowl, the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV, defeating the Minnesota Vikings.
Owning a team also satisfied another side to Hunt. As he told CNN in
1998, looking back on his career, talking about his first involvement
in pro football, when he started a team in Dallas: "I guess I had
sort of a show business bug in my mind."
Hometown El Dorado, Arkansas
Degrees B.S. in Geology in '56
Recognized as the guiding force behind the formation of both the
American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Hunt has
served as a positive influence on the game of professional football
since he conceived the American Football League in `59. Hunt was the
first AFL figure to be enshrined into the Pro Football Football Hall
of Fame as a member of the Class of `72, a remarkable feat
considering he became involved in pro football just 13 years earlier.
Beginning his 46th season of involvement with the sport in 2005, Hunt
served as the catalyst who brought together the whimsically-
named "Foolish Club" comprised of the eight original AFL owners and
also helped the fledgling league take foot on the field for the `60
On June 8, 1966, the AFL-NFL merger was announced by NFL Commissioner
Pete Rozelle and on January 15, 1967, Hunt's Kansas City Chiefs were
participating in the inaugural Super Bowl. Hunt's continuing efforts
have long been recognized as having an important role in the design,
ongoing development and direction of the modern-day National Football
Whether it was serving as the driving force behind the formation of
the AFL, playing a pivotal role in the AFL-NFL merger in the `60s, or
overseeing many crucial issues concerning pro football and the Chiefs
franchise during the past four decades, there is little question that
few individuals have helped change the face of America's favorite
game for the better as much as Hunt. As the founder of the AFL, he
helped pave the way for much of the modern growth of professional
football. Possibly the greatest tribute to his contributions to the
sport was the naming by the league of the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is
presented annually to the champion of the American Football
As the founder of the Chiefs franchise, Hunt helped provide Kansas
City with a team that became the winningest in the 10-year history of
the AFL and earned spots in two of the first four Super Bowls,
climaxed by winning the `69 World Championship in Super Bowl IV. In
honor of the 30th anniversary of the Chiefs victory in that game,
Hunt was chosen to perform the official coin toss for Super Bowl
XXXIV between St. Louis and Tennessee. Ironically, the winning coach
that day was former Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil.
Hunt helped make pro football history by organizing the American
Football League, which included his Dallas Texans franchise. After
three years, the team moved to Kansas City, where the organization
begins its 43rd season in 2005. The early days of the AFL were
problem-filled but Hunt saw his Texans achieve on-field success.
In `62, the Texans won the AFL Championship with a double-overtime
victory over the Houston Oilers, the first of three titles won by the
Texans/Chiefs during the league's 10-year existence. The team
repeated as champions in both `66 and `69. By winning the `66 AFL
title, the Chiefs earned the right to play in the first Super Bowl
against the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers. Three years later, the
Chiefs claimed Kansas City's first major sports championship by
defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
In the late `60s, Hunt was closely involved in the development of
Arrowhead Stadium, a facility which celebrated its 30th Anniversary
Season in 2001 and has hosted numerous major non-NFL sporting events
in recent years. In 2005, Arrowhead will serve as the site of three
NCAA football contests: Missouri vs. Arkansas State, Oklahoma vs.
Kansas and Northwest Missouri State vs. Pittsburg State.
The "Home of the Chiefs" has also provided the stage for the Big 12
Conference Football Championship Game in 2000, 2003 and 2004. The
2000 and 2003 contests featured matchups between Kansas State and
Oklahoma, while the 2004 Big 12 Conference Football Championship Game
pitted Oklahoma vs. Colorado. Arrowhead will also serve as the host
of the 2006 Big 12 Conference Football Championship Game.
Other notable events hosted at Arrowhead include a 2001 Men's World
Cup Qualifier (U.S.A. vs. Costa Rica), the 2000 Eddie Robinson
Classic (Kansas State vs. Iowa) and a 2000 Women's Nike Cup Match
(U.S.A. vs. Canada). Arrowhead has also hosted the 2003 Black Coaches
Association Game (Kansas State vs. California) and the 2002 Eddie
Robinson Classic (Florida State vs. Iowa State). In 2002, an
Arrowhead game between Northwest Missouri State and Pittsburg State
drew 26,695 fans, the highest attendance ever for an NCAA Division II
Hunt has been a continuing leader in pro football and few individuals
have helped shape the sport more than this quiet Texan. In addition
to being a principal negotiator in the merger of the AFL and NFL in
the late `60s, he was a contributor to the design of the NFL playoff
format. He is also credited with accidentally putting the name "Super
Bowl" on the NFL's championship game the name coming from his
children's toy "Super Ball."
In `81, Hunt was inducted into the NFL Alumni Association's
prestigious Order of the Leather Helmet and in February of `93, he
received the Francis J. "Reds" Bagnell Award from the Maxwell
Football Club of Philadelphia for continuing positive contributions
to the game. For many years, he was a persistent advocate of the two-
point conversion option for pro football an old college and AFL
rule that was finally adopted by the NFL in `94. In 2000, Hunt along
with Chiefs President, General Manager and CEO Carl Peterson, earned
the distinction of becoming just the fourth Owner/General Manager
combination to preside over a franchise for all 10 years of a 100-win
decade as Kansas City compiled a stellar 102-58 (.638) regular season
record from `90-99.
In 2002, Hunt led the commemoration of the franchise's 40th
Anniversary Season in Kansas City. Beginning as a member of the
American Football League playing in old Municipal Stadium, the Chiefs
continue to serve as a vibrant part of the Kansas City community and
today's National Football League thanks to the unprecedented support
provided by the team's legions of loyal supporters. Today, the Home
of the Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium is a place which truly embodies
the spirit and the passion of one of the most energetic fan bases in
all of sports.
A year-round sports fan, Hunt is involved in several additional
sports business ventures. He is one of the founding investors in the
six-time World Champion Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball
Association, while the Hunt family also serves as the operator of
three franchises in Major League Soccer, now in its 10th season of
The Hunt family oversees the operations of the Kansas City Wizards,
F.C. Dallas and the Columbus Crew, who play in America's first soccer-
specific stadium, the beautiful 22,555-seat Crew Stadium. The Hunt
family now prizes 13 distinctive championship rings from five
different professional sports associations (AFL/NFL, MLS, NBA, NASL
and the U.S. Soccer "Open Cup"). The family's football championship
litany includes a Super Bowl IV ring from the `69 Chiefs, as well as
AFL title rings from the `62 Texans and `66 Chiefs.
Appropriately nicknamed "Games" during his childhood, Hunt's love of
sports ventures has been his true lifeblood, an enthusiasm which has
transcended his involvement in numerous athletic entities. Over 30
years ago, the Hunts were involved in the development of both the
North American Soccer League and a tennis promotion company, World
Both of those organizations are no longer in operation; however, in
an unusual twist, Hunt's involvement in these ventures resulted years
later in his induction into the respective Halls of Fame of both
United States Soccer (located in Oneonta, New York) in `82 and
International Tennis (located in Newport, Rhode Island) in `93. He
has also been honored in the state Sports Halls of Fame of both
Missouri ('95) and Texas ('84).
In total, Hunt has been inducted into eight "Halls of Fame,"
including the Texas Business Hall of Fame ('97) and the Kansas City
Business Hall of Fame (2004). Soccer America Magazine named Hunt one
of its "25 Most Influential People" in `99 after the 90-year-old U.S.
Open Cup was renamed the "Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup." That same year
he also received the U.S. Soccer Federation Hall of Fame Medal of
Honor, joining former U.S. Soccer President Alan Rothenberg as the
only other individual to earn that prestigious distinction.
As President of the American Football Conference, Hunt is a working
member of several prominent NFL committees, including current service
on the Finance, Business Ventures and Hall of Fame committees.
Hunt was born on August 2, 1932 in El Dorado, Arkansas and graduated
from SMU with a B.S. in Geology in `56. While at SMU, he was a three-
year reserve end on the Varsity Football Team. He and his wife,
Norma, have four children, Lamar, Jr., Sharron Munson, Clark and
Daniel, as well as 13 grandchildren. Together, the entire Hunt family
shares a great enthusiasm for the Chiefs "Red and Gold."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Date of birth August 2, 1932
Place of birth El Dorado, Arkansas
Date of death December 13, 2006
Place of death Dallas, Texas
Position(s) Founder of the American Football League (1960-69)
Co-Founder of the North American Soccer League (1967-84)
Charter Investor of Major League Soccer
Founder/owner of Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs
Founder/owner of Columbus Crew
Owner of FC Dallas
Founder/previous owner of Kansas City Wizards
College: Southern Methodist
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup(est.1914) Oldest U.S. sports tournament now
named for him
National Soccer Hall of Fame
HOF inductee 1982
HOF Medal of Honor 1999
Team(s) as a coach/administrator
1967-1981 - Dallas Tornado (NASL)
1994-2006 - Columbus Crew (MLS)
1995-2006 - Kansas City Wizards (MLS)
2003-2006 - FC Dallas (MLS)
1959-2006 - Kansas City Chiefs (NFL/AFL)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1972
Lamar Hunt (August 2, 1932December 13, 2006) was a promoter of
American football, soccer, tennis, basketball, and ice hockey in the
United States and an inductee of the first three sports' halls of
fame. He was one of the founders of the American Football League and
Major League Soccer (MLS), as well as MLS predecessor the North
American Soccer League. He was also the founder and owner of the
National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs, and at his death owned
two MLS teams, FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. The oldest annual
team tournament in the U.S. in any sport, soccer's U.S. Open Cup
(founded 1914) now bears his name in honor of his pioneering role in
that sport stateside. In Kansas City, Hunt also helped establish the
Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun theme parks. He was inducted into the
Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972; into the National Soccer Hall of
Fame in 1982; and into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993.
The National Soccer Hall of Fame bestowed upon Hunt their Medal of
Honor in 1999, an award given to only 3 recipients in history thus
Hunt was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of oil tycoon H. L.
Hunt and younger brother of tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt. Lamar was
raised in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from The Hill School in
Pennsylvania in 1950 and Southern Methodist University in Dallas in
1956, with a B.S. degree in geology. Hunt was a college football
player who rode the bench but was still an avid sports enthusiast
during his time in college and throughout his entire childhood. While
attending SMU Hunt joined the Kappa Sigma Fraternity and in 1972 was
named "man of the year".
Founding of the American Football League
Hunt applied for a National Football League expansion franchise but
was turned down. In 1959, professional football was a distant second
to Major League Baseball in popularity, and the thinking among NFL
executives was that the league must be careful not to "oversaturate"
the market by expanding too quickly. 
In response, in 1960 Hunt led several other vectors in forming the
American Football League. He encouraged, wheedled, and cajoled seven
other like-minded men to form this new league. One of them, fellow
Texan Bud Adams of Houston, had likewise tried but failed to be
granted an NFL franchise. Hunt's goal was to bring professional
football to Texas and to acquire an NFL team for the Hunt family.
Hunt became owner of the Dallas Texans and hired future hall-of-famer
Hank Stram as the team's first head coach.
Ownership & AFL/NFL Merger
The Dallas Texans won the AFL Championship in 1962 over the 2-time
defending champion Houston Oilers in the longest professional game
ever played as of that time and were one of the most successful AFL
teams in the league's early days. But the Texans' success failed to
draw fans in large numbers, as the Texans had to compete for fan
loyalty with their cross-town NFL rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In 1963
Hunt began to consider moving the team. Kansas City quickly became
one of the contending cities for the franchise. During cloak-and-
dagger negotiating sessions, in order to convince Hunt to move the
team to Kansas City, mayor H. Roe Bartle promised Hunt home
attendance of 25,000 people per game. Hunt finally agreed to move the
team to Kansas City and in 1963 the Dallas Texans became the Kansas
In the Chiefs' early days, attendance did not match the expansive
claims Mayor Bartle had made. But in 1966 average home attendance at
Chiefs games picked up and reached 37,000. By 1969 -- aided by some
very successful and entertaining teams -- Chiefs' home attendance had
reached 51,000. In 1966 the Chiefs won their first AFL Championship
and reached the first ever Super Bowl (a name coined by Hunt, who
took it in part from the then popular toy, the Superball)-- then
called the "AFL-NFL Championship Game" -- where they lost to the
Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs remained successful through the 1960s,
and in 1970 the Chiefs reached the pinnacle of success, winning the
AFL Championship and later went on to win Super Bowl IV (the last
Super Bowl played when the AFL was a separate league prior to it
being absorbed into the NFL as the American Football Conference) over
the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings. The Chiefs became an icon in
Kansas City, and Hunt never considered moving the team again.
The rosters of the AFL were always stocked with a certain number of
players who would have excelled in any league -- and that number grew
as the 1960s progressed. The best AFL coaches and owners, many of
them new to the pro game, brought color, excitement and important new
strategic and marketing ideas to pro football, which had often been
dominated by play-calling which overrated the value of eliminating
mistakes and underrated the element of surprise. While the NFL was
always almost certainly the better league as a whole, the best teams
of the AFL were increasingly the equals of any team in the NFL.
The AFL also substantially raised football players' salaries by
frequently bidding against the NFL for the top college stars. It was
the NFL's concern for containing salaries, more than anything else,
that led a reluctant NFL to accept a merger between the two leagues
in 1970. The older league could no longer claim to be far superior
because by then the AFL champion New York Jets had defeated the
vaunted Baltimore Colts of the NFL to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs'
triumph over the Vikings the following season further showcased the
In 1972, Hunt became the first American Football League personage
inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The trophy presented to
each year's AFC Champions is named the Lamar Hunt Trophy. In 1984,
Hunt was also inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Hunt has also been influential in soccer and tennis, and has
contributed to the growth of those sports in the US. He has been
elected to the Halls of Fame of both sports.
The NASL: Ownership and battles with the NFL
With much already accomplished in the world of American football,
Hunt moved on in 1967 to help jump start soccer in the U.S. In 1966
he had become enthralled with the World Cup on TV, and when it was
decided that new pro leagues were to be formed in the US, Hunt wanted
to be one of the initial movers and shakers.
His team in the North American Soccer League was the Dallas Tornado,
and they debuted in 1967 as a part of the USA:United Soccer
Association. In a more fledgling version of what was occurring with
the AFL and NFL, in 1968 a pro soccer merger took place to form the
North American Soccer League. Eventually, the NASL reached 24 teams,
and at times, the most popular teams such as the New York Cosmos
outdrew their NFL and MLB counterparts in the same cities. With Lamar
Hunt as an active advocate for the sport and the league, his team the
Dallas Tornado won the NASL championship in 1971 and were runners-
The NFL was not happy with Hunt's ownership in and promotion of pro
soccer, a sport that was taking away attention and spectators from
the American football game. The NFL attempted to force legal
requirements that would disallow team ownership in more than one
sport for owners of NFL franchises. This strategy backfired onto the
NFL, and in fact, the NASL won an anti-trust case against the NFL. A
primary benefactor of this outcome was Lamar Hunt, and his legacy of
leadership and ownership of pro soccer in those times remains to this
Major League Soccer
Lamar Hunt was also one of the original founding investors of Major
League Soccer, which debuted in 1996. This time he owned two teams:
the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards. In 1999, Hunt financed
the construction of the Columbus Crew Stadium, the first of several
large soccer-specific stadiums in the USA. In 2003, Hunt purchased a
third team, the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas), after announcing that he
would partially finance the construction of their own soccer-specific
stadium. On August 31, 2006, Hunt sold the Wizards to a six-man
ownership group led by Cerner Corporation co-founders Neal Patterson
and Cliff Illig.
Other sports and activities
Basketball: Hunt was one of the founding investors of the Chicago
Bulls of the National Basketball Association. He remained a minority
owner until his death.
Tennis: In 1967, Hunt co-founded the World Championship Tennis
circuit, which gave birth to the open era in tennis. He was made a
member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993.
NHL: Hunt and John H. McConnell formed Columbus Hockey Limited,
L.L.C. (CHL) in an effort to obtain a National Hockey League
franchise for Columbus, Ohio. Following disagreements over the
financing for an arena, McConnell accepted an offer to lease a new
arena from Nationwide Insurance Enterprise. McConnell froze-out CHL
and Hunt and was awarded the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets franchise. See
McConnell v. Hunt Sports Enterprises, 132 Ohio App.3d 657, 725 N.E.2d
Hunt was also the founder of two theme parks in Kansas City: Worlds
of Fun and Oceans of Fun, which opened in 1973 and 1982 respectively.
For service to Dallas, Texas, Lamar Hunt was honored during halftime
of the Dallas Cowboys/Kansas City Chiefs game in 2005.
For his efforts in building the sport of soccer in the United States
in the modern era, Hunt was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of
Fame in 1992, and given their prestigious Medal of Honor in 1999, an
award so far given out only 3 times in history.
The United States Soccer Federation changed the name of its oldest
and most prestigious competition, the U.S. Open Cup (est.1914), to
the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1999.
The NFL's trophy for the champion of the American Football Conference
is named in honor of Lamar Hunt.
Lamar Hunt died December 13, 2006 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas
of complications related to prostate cancer. Upon his death Cowboys
owner Jerry Jones called Hunt, "a founder of the NFL as we know it
today.... He's been an inspiration for me."  Said Dan Rooney,
Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers: "Lamar Hunt was one of the most
influential owners in professional football over the past 40-plus
years, He was instrumental in the formation of the American Football
League and in the AFL-NFL merger, which helped the National Football
League grow into America's passion." The Mayor of Kansas City,
Missouri requested that all city flags fly at half-staff the
following Thursday and Friday of his passing.