Alvin Ray "Pete" Rozelle (/roʊˈzɛl/; March 1, 1926 – December 6, 1996) was an American businessman and executive. Rozelle served as the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL) for nearly thirty years, from January 1960 until his retirement in November 1989. He is credited with making the NFL into one of the most successful sports leagues in the world.
Rozelle in the early 1980s.
of the National Football League
January 1960 – November 1989
|Preceded by||Austin Gunsel (interim)|
|Succeeded by||Paul Tagliabue|
Alvin Ray Rozelle
March 1, 1926
South Gate, California
|Died||December 6, 1996 (aged 70)|
Rancho Santa Fe, California
|Spouse(s)||Jane Coupe (m.1949-1972) Carrie Cooke (m.1973- d. 1996)|
|Alma mater||University of San Francisco|
|Honors||Sportsman of the Year (1963)|
Pro Football Hall of Fame
Born in South Gate, California, Rozelle grew up in neighboring Lynwood during the Great Depression. He graduated from Compton High School in 1944, with Duke Snider, lettering in baseball and basketball. He was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1944 and served 18 months in the Pacific on an oil tanker.
Rozelle entered Compton Community College in 1946. While there he worked as the student athletic news director and also worked part-time for the Los Angeles Rams as a public relations assistant. Pete Newell, head coach for the University of San Francisco Dons basketball team, came to Compton in 1948 for a recruiting visit. Impressed by Rozelle, Newell helped arrange for him to get a full scholarship to work in a similar capacity at USF.
Rozelle enrolled at USF that year and worked as a student publicist for the USF Dons athletic department. In addition to promoting the school's football team he was able to draw national attention to the Dons' 1949 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship basketball team. After graduating from USF in 1950 he was hired by the school as the full-time athletic news director.
In 1952, he re-joined the Rams as a PR specialist. Leaving after three years, he held a series of public relations jobs in southern California, including marketing the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia for a Los Angeles based company. In 1957, he returned to the Rams, a disorganized, unprofitable team, lost in the growing L.A. market, as their general manager. In spite of continued struggles on the field, including a league-worst 2–10 record in 1959, he turned them into a business success in just three years.
After Bert Bell's death in October 1959, the 33-year-old Rozelle was the surprise choice for his replacement as NFL commissioner. According to Howard Cosell in his book I Never Played the Game, the owners took 23 ballots before settling on Rozelle as NFL Commissioner at a January 26, 1960 meeting.
When he took office following the 1959 season, there were twelve teams in the NFL playing a twelve-game schedule to frequently half-empty stadiums, and only a few teams had television contracts. The NFL in 1960 was following a business model that had evolved from the 1930s. One of Rozelle's early accomplishments was helping the league adopt profit-sharing of gate and television revenues. The revenue-sharing was a major factor in stabilizing the NFL and guaranteeing the success of its small-market teams. Another important contribution was Rozelle's success in negotiating large television contracts to broadcast every NFL game played each season. In doing so he deftly played one television network against the other. In 1962, Rozelle was re-elected to a five-year contract to remain as commissioner.
After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, Rozelle wrestled with the decision of whether to cancel that Sunday's games. Rozelle and White House press secretary Pierre Salinger had been classmates at the University of San Francisco, so Rozelle consulted with him. Salinger urged Rozelle to play the games, so he agreed for the schedule to proceed. Rozelle felt that way, saying: "It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy's game. He thrived on competition." After their win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia, players on the Washington Redskins asked Coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House, thanking Rozelle for allowing the games to be played that weekend, saying that they were "playing...for President Kennedy and in his memory." There were players and news outlets that disagreed with the decision, and Rozelle subsequently thought it might have been wiser to cancel those games.
Citing his "aptitude for conciliation" with the league's owners, his work in expanding the NFL, and his crackdown on player gambling, Sports Illustrated named Rozelle the magazine's 1963 "Sportsman of the Year".
By 1965, the rival American Football League obtained a new NBC-TV contract and had signed a new superstar in Joe Namath. As the leagues battled to sign top talent, bonuses and salaries grew dramatically, especially after a series of "raids" on each other's talent, both signed and unsigned. The leagues agreed to a merger in 1966. Among the conditions were a common draft and a championship game played between the two league champions first played in early 1967, the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, which would eventually become known as the Super Bowl. Rozelle led negotiations with AFL and NFL executives to merge the two leagues. In October 1966, he testified in front of Congress and convinced them to allow the merger. Rozelle played an important role in making the Super Bowl the most watched sporting event in the United States.
Due to television contracts, the AFL and NFL operated as separate leagues until 1970, with separate regular season schedules, but they met in the preseason and in the championship game. Although Rozelle nominally remained the NFL commissioner, he was given broad authority over both leagues after AFL Commissioner Al Davis was forced to resign and ultimately replaced by an AFL President subordinate to the NFL Commissioner. During this time, the NFL Commissioner's office came to resemble that of the Commissioner of Baseball and Rozelle unofficially became known as the Football Commissioner although that was never an official title. Meanwhile, the AFL expanded, adding the Miami Dolphins in 1966, and the Cincinnati Bengals in 1967. Also during this period, the NFL added the Atlanta Falcons in 1966, and the New Orleans Saints in 1967. In 1970, the AFL was absorbed into the NFL and the league reorganized with the ten AFL franchises along with the previous NFL teams Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers becoming part of the newly-formed American Football Conference (AFC.) All remaining pre-merger NFL teams formed the National Football Conference (NFC.) By 1970, the NFL stood at 26 teams.
In 1970, Rozelle proposed his concept, Monday Night Football, to Roone Arledge, then the head of the ABC television network. After selling his idea to ABC, Monday Night Football premiered in September 1970 with the Cleveland Browns against the New York Jets; the Browns won the game, 31-21. The program is still broadcast today (it moved to ESPN in 2006) Monday Night Football aired on ABC for 36 years at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The first broadcast announcing team was Don Meredith, Howard Cosell, and Keith Jackson.
In the 1980s, Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders franchise, sued the NFL in order to relocate the team to Los Angeles. Rozelle represented the NFL, testifying in court to block the Raiders' move. Ultimately, the NFL lost its court case with Davis, and the Oakland franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1982. The tension between Rozelle and Davis, who had wanted to be NFL commissioner, was apparent throughout the case. In January 1981, just after the case was settled, the Oakland Raiders won Super Bowl XV and Rozelle as commissioner was tasked with handing the Super Bowl Trophy to Davis. The Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.
Under Rozelle the NFL thrived and became an American institution, despite two players' strikes and two different competing leagues. He retired as commissioner on November 5, 1989. By the time of his resignation, the number of teams in the league had grown to 28, and team owners presided over sizable revenues from U.S. broadcasting networks.
Rozelle's legacy of equalization has been felt not only in the NFL, but also in the Australian Football League, the major Australian-rules football competition. In 1986, The AFL Commission adopted a policy of equalization based on the method pioneered by Rozelle in the NFL. It is because of this decision that expansion clubs have been able to survive, as well as older clubs with smaller support bases. An example of this is the 1996 AFL Grand Final between North Melbourne and the Sydney Swans, two teams with small supporter bases.
Rozelle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 while still its commissioner. The NFL's annual Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award was established in 1989 to recognize "longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football", and is awarded annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 1990, the league instituted the Pete Rozelle Trophy to honor the Super Bowl MVP, first awarded in the 1990 season at Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991. A month after Rozelle's death in December 1996, the NFL honored his legacy with a decal on the back of the helmets of the teams competing in Super Bowl XXXI.
In 1991, Rozelle was honored with the "Lombardi Award of Excellence" from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.
Rozelle married Jane Coupe, an artist, in 1949. The couple had one child, Anne Marie, born in 1958. Rozelle was awarded full custody of Anne Marie after his divorce due to Coupe's alcoholism. Rozelle remarried in December 1973 to Carrie Cooke, a former daughter-in-law of Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins.
Andrea Kremer (born February 25, 1959 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a multi-Emmy Award Winning American television sports journalist. She currently calls Thursday Night Football games for Amazon Prime Video making sports history, along with Hannah Storm, by becoming the first all-women booth to call any major men's team sport, not just football.. Kremer is also Chief Correspondent for the NFL Network and previously led the network's coverage and in-depth reporting on health and safety. Her other current roles include correspondent for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel as well as co-host of We Need To Talk, the first ever all-female nationally televised weekly sports show on CBS. Until the 2011 season, she worked as a sideline reporter for NBC on the network's coverage of Sunday Night Football.
In 2018, Kremer received the tremendous honor from the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the recipient of the prestigious Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. She has covered more than 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals and All-Star Game, Major League Baseball's All-star Game and League Championship Series, college football bowl games, Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, U.S Olympic basketball trials, 2012 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, and the PGA Championship.Bob Trumpy
Robert Theodore Trumpy Jr. (born March 6, 1945) is a former professional American football tight end who played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1968 through 1977. He was a two-time National Football League Pro Bowler and a two-time American Football League All-Star. Following his playing career he spent many years as a broadcast color analyst, broadcasting four Super Bowls. He was given the Pete Rozelle Award for broadcasting from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.Charlie Jones (sportscaster)
Charlie Jones (November 9, 1930 – June 12, 2008) was an American sportscaster for NBC and ABC.Chris Berman
Christopher James Berman (born May 10, 1955), nicknamed Boomer, is an American sportscaster. He has been an anchor for SportsCenter on ESPN since 1979, joining a month after its initial launch, and hosted the network's Sunday NFL Countdown program from 1985 to 2016. He has also anchored Monday Night Countdown, U.S. Open golf, the Stanley Cup Finals, and other programming on ESPN and ABC Sports. Berman calls play-by-play of select Major League Baseball games for ESPN, which included the Home Run Derby until 2016. A six-time honoree of the National Sports Media Association's "National Sportscaster of the Year" award, Berman was instrumental in establishing ESPN's lasting popularity during the network's formative years. He is well known for his various catchphrases and quirky demeanor.
In January 2017, ESPN announced that Berman would be stepping down from several NFL-related roles at the network, but would remain at the company.Chris Schenkel
Christopher Eugene Schenkel (August 21, 1923 – September 11, 2005) was an American sportscaster. Over the course of five decades he called play-by-play for numerous sports on television and radio, becoming known for his smooth delivery and baritone voice.Dan Dierdorf
Daniel Lee Dierdorf (born June 29, 1949) is a former American football offensive lineman and current sportscaster.
A native of Canton, Ohio, Dierdorf played college football for the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1970 and was selected as a consensus first-team All-American in 1970 and a first-team All-Big Ten Conference player in 1969 and 1970. He was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1996 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Dierdorf played professional football in National Football League (NFL) with the St. Louis Cardinals for 13 seasons from 1971 to 1983. He was selected by the National Football League Players Association as the Offensive Lineman of the Year for three consecutive years from 1976 to 1978. Between 1974 and 1980, he played in the Pro Bowl six times and was chosen as a first-team All-Pro five times. He was named to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Since his playing career ended, Dierdorf has worked as a broadcaster. He worked for American Broadcasting Company (ABC) from 1987 to 1999, including 12 seasons as color analyst on Monday Night Football. He was then part of the NFL on CBS team as an announcer for 15 years from 1999 to 2013. Since 2014, he has been the color analyst for Michigan Wolverines football radio broadcasts. In 2008, Dierdorf received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.David Hill (producer)
David Hill (born May 21, 1946) is an Australian-born American executive producer who served as the president of Fox Sports from 1993-2000, and as a senior EVP of 21st Century Fox for twenty-four years. He left the Fox Group in June 2015 to open his own production company that focused on live TV events. David was a chairman of National Geographic Channels. He served as an executive producer of the American version of The X Factor and the last season of American Idol.Ed Sabol
Edwin Milton Sabol (September 11, 1916 – February 9, 2015) was an American filmmaker and the founder (with his son Steve Sabol, among others) of NFL Films. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011 as a contributor due to his works with NFL Films.Irv Cross
Irvin Acie "Irv" Cross (born July 27, 1939) is a former professional American football cornerback and sportscaster.Lesley Visser
Lesley Candace Visser (born September 11, 1953) is an American sportscaster, television and radio personality, and sportswriter. Visser is the first female NFL analyst on TV, and the only sportscaster in history (male or female) who has worked on Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Figure Skating Championships and the U.S. Open network broadcasts. Visser, who was voted the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time in a poll taken by the American Sportscasters Association, was elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Hall of Fame in 2015.In 2009, Visser became the first woman to be an analyst for an NFL game on TV. She is currently a reporter for CBS Sports and News, writes for CBSSports.com and is also part of WFTL 640 Fox Sports' morning drive in South Florida, as well as one of the hosts of a CBS Sports Network weekly television show, We Need to Talk.
Visser was the first woman to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the 2006 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award which recognizes long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football. Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman said about Visser in his 2006 induction speech, "She brought respect and professionalism to the field of journalism for her work in print and broadcasting. It makes me proud to be in her company today."
A pioneer among women sports journalists, Visser re-joined CBS Sports in August 2000 after a six-year hiatus. She was formerly the sideline reporter for Monday Night Football among other assignments she had at ESPN and ABC Sports, such as the World Series, the Triple Crown and the World Figure Skating Championship. She serves as correspondent for the network's NFL and college basketball programming.Lindsey Nelson
Lindsey Nelson (May 25, 1919 – June 10, 1995) was an American sportscaster best known for his long career calling play-by-play of college football and New York Mets baseball.
Nelson spent 17 years with the Mets and three years with the San Francisco Giants. For 33 years Nelson covered college football, including 26 Cotton Bowls, five Sugar Bowls, four Rose Bowls, and 14 years announcing syndicated Notre Dame games. He is in 13 separate Halls of Fame. Fans remember a talented broadcaster, an expert storyteller, and a true sports enthusiast. From his colorful jackets to his equally colorful broadcasts and enthusiastic manner of speaking, Nelson established himself as one of the industry's leading sportscasters.Myron Cope
Myron Sidney Kopelman (January 23, 1929 – February 27, 2008), known professionally as Myron Cope, was an American sports journalist, radio personality, and sportscaster. He is best known for being "the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers".
Cope was a color commentator for the Steelers' radio broadcasts for 35 years. He was known for his distinctive, nasally voice with an identifiable Pittsburgh accent, idiosyncratic speech pattern, and a level of excitement rarely exhibited in the broadcast booth. Cope's most notable catch phrase was "yoi" . Cope was the first football announcer inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. Cope's autobiography, Double Yoi!, was published in 2002.Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award
The Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, created in 1989 and named for the late longtime NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, is bestowed annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame "for longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football". Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame's comparable Ford C. Frick Award, the Rozelle Award has occasionally been granted to broadcast executives and production people in addition to on-air personalities.Ray Scott (sportscaster)
Ray Scott (June 17, 1919 – March 23, 1998) was an American sportscaster, best known for his broadcasts for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. His brother Hal Scott was also a sportscaster.Roger Vick
Roger Vick (born August 11, 1964 in Conroe, Texas) is a former professional American football running back/fullback in the NFL for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles from 1987 to 1990. He played college football at Texas A&M University. He also played on the Orlando Thunder in the World League.
Though Vick had a decent but unspectacular career for his position, his selection during the 1987 NFL Draft was noteworthy as he was the only fullback selected in the first round. It is customary for fullbacks to be selected in the mid rounds or later, as fullbacks are often not considered as important as other skill players on offense, which was why many were surprised by the Jets taking Vick in the first round, especially with future All-Pro lineman Harris Barton still on the board.
Pete Rozelle: "The New York Jets' first round selection, fullback-" Unnamed fan: "OHHH NO!" Rozelle: "Roger Vick, Texas A&M"Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award
The Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award, or Super Bowl MVP, is presented annually to the most valuable player of the Super Bowl, the National Football League's (NFL) championship game. The winner is chosen by a panel of 16 football writers and broadcasters and, since Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, fans voting electronically. The media panel's ballots count for 80 percent of the vote tally, while the viewers' ballots make up the other 20 percent. The game's viewing audience can vote on the Internet or by using cellular phones; Media voters are asked to vote with about five minutes remaining in the game, but are allowed to change their mind when the game ends. They can nominate one player from each team, with instructions to count their vote for the player on the winning team. Voters cannot select an entire unit.The Super Bowl MVP has been awarded annually since the game's inception in 1967. Through 1989, the award was presented by SPORT magazine. Bart Starr was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. Since 1990, the award has been presented by the NFL. At Super Bowl XXV, the league first awarded the Pete Rozelle Trophy, named after former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, to the Super Bowl MVP. Ottis Anderson was the first to win the trophy. The most recent Super Bowl MVP, from Super Bowl LIII held on February 3, 2019, is New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had 10 receptions for 141 yards.Tom Brady is the only player to have won four Super Bowl MVP awards; Joe Montana has won three and three others—Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Eli Manning—have won the award twice. Starr and Bradshaw are the only ones to have won it in back-to-back years. The MVP has come from the winning team every year except 1971, when Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley won the award despite the Cowboys' loss in Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts. Harvey Martin and Randy White were named co-MVPs of Super Bowl XII, the only time co-MVPs have been chosen. Including the Super Bowl XII co-MVPs, seven Cowboys players have won Super Bowl MVP awards, the most of any NFL team. Quarterbacks have earned the honor 29 times in 53 games.Tom Jackson (American football, born 1951)
Thomas Louie Jackson, also referred to as "TJ" or "Tommy", (born April 4, 1951) is a former NFL linebacker for the Denver Broncos, where he was part of the "Orange Crush Defense". Jackson was a major component in the defense which led the Broncos to Super Bowl XXI against the New York Giants. After his playing career ended, he enjoyed a successful 29-year run as an NFL analyst for ESPN. He was given the Pete Rozelle Award for excellence in broadcasting by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.Val Pinchbeck
Valjean A. Pinchbeck (February 16, 1931 – March 6, 2004) was an American football executive on both the college and professional level.Van Miller
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Pete Rozelle—awards and honors