October 22, 2013
Our company’s long-lasting relationship with Bud Adams and the Tennessee Oilers/Titans started quietly with a couple of phone calls and then a hastily called meeting in a Memphis hotel room before an Oilers game in Memphis against the Washington Redskins in 1997.
My partners Mark McNeely and Dave Cooley were at the meeting at the Memphis Hilton, and Mr. Adams, who died on Monday at age 90, made the decision that day to hire a public relations firm for the first time in his nearly 50 years as a professional football team owner.
His predicament at the time was simple: The decision had been made for his team to leave Houston after the 1996 season and play in Memphis for two seasons while Nashville built the team a new permanent stadium. McNeely Pigott & Fox had overseen the successful referendum campaign for approval of the Nashville stadium’s bonds, so we were familiar both with the project and with many of the members of the Oilers executive team.
The problem with having Memphis serve as the team’s temporary home was that the people there had wanted an NFL team of their own rather than to serve as babysitter for Nashville’s team. The result was that Mr. Adams was reviled by many in Houston for taking the team away, unwanted in Memphis because he wasn’t moving there permanently, and distrusted by some in Nashville after a hotly contested stadium debate.
I became involved in many of the steps after our hiring, and we have proudly worked with the team ever since. The immediate steps after that Memphis meeting were our helping with announcing that the team would arrive in Nashville a year earlier than originally planned, assisting with drawing a good crowd to their first game at their new temporary home at Vanderbilt stadium, and helping to get Mr. Adams in front of as many people as possible in Nashville to let them get to know him.
We oversaw the polling and analysis that led to Mr. Adams’ reluctant decision to change the name from Oilers to Titans, and we worked on many other projects with his quality senior staff.
Though a demanding boss sometimes, Mr. Adams could also be a real charmer and was great at telling stories from his many decades in professional football. His team has played to a sellout crowd at every game since LP Field opened.
He was controversial at times, but his record speaks for itself: Nashville is a far greater city overall because former Mayor Phil Bredesen and Bud Adams worked out a way to bring an NFL team here. I would contend he never put making money ahead of trying to make his team better. And his team has been generous in helping our city’s charitable organizations.
MP&F is proud to have “played for” Bud Adams.