Kenneth Stanley Adams, Jr. passed away on Monday at the age of 90, though you may not know who I’m referring to unless I call him “Bud.” Okay, now that you know who I’m writing about, the Tennessee Titans owner who fearlessly moved his AFC franchise, the Houston Oilers, to Nashville in 1997 and renamed them the Titans died on Monday. He was known mainly as the owner of the Titans, but he meant so much more to the game of professional football.
Bud Adams joined with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt in forming the American Football League in 1959. The two visionaries believed that America could handle two different pro football leagues, and they were right. Adams formed his own franchise in Houston and was successful in keeping the NFL out of the city. In retaliation, the NFL moved the Cowboys to Dallas in the early 1960s, but Bud Adams, always the innovator and always the promoter, moved his Oiler team into the Houston Astrodome in 1968. The Oilers became the first indoor football team in history.
The Oilers won the first two AFL titles and made the league championship game four other times, but through the years, Adams made some enemies in Houston. His first major run-in with Oiler fans came in 1980 when he fired popular Coach Bum Phillips. Adams constantly complained about the Astrodome and threatened to move the team in 1987, before 10,000 seats were added. When Houston refused to build him a new stadium, he moved the team to Tennessee in 1996, first to Memphis, then Nashville.
While he made enemies of Oiler fans, he made believers of Titans fans; just as he made believers out of the people who told him the AFL was a “foolish” idea.
Adams spent millions of dollars and many years trying to take a team to the Super Bowl. He finally got his wish in 1999 when the Titans faced the St. Louis Rams. The Titans lost that game 23-16 as time ran out when Kevin Dyson was stopped at the Rams one-yard line.
While Bud Adams “played” with his Oilers and later his Titan’s franchise, he quietly built a huge fortune. His publicly traded company, Adams Resources and Energy, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company. His business interests included cattle, farming and ranching in California, as well as real estate and automobile sales. He was also a devoted collector of Western art and Native American artifacts. However, his first love was always his football team.
Former Titans’ Coach Jeff Fisher called Adams “passionate,” while Kansas City Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt spoke fondly of Adams’ friendship with his father Lamar Hunt. Titans’ fans will miss Bud Adams and so will the entire city of Nashville. The National Football League will miss him more. His vision of what we now call pro football was evident to him and several other AFL owners many years ago. That’s what we all expect from icons.
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).