Pete Rozelle (born Alvin Ray “Pete” Rozelle) was the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL) and is credited with turning the NFL into the sports league powerhouse that it is today.
1. Introduction to Football
Rozelle began working with sports teams at the University of San Francisco. There he worked as a student publicist for the football team. Before this publicist job, Rozelle had several other jobs in athletic management fields, but this job was important because it would introduce him to the sport of football.
2. General Manager of the Los Angeles Rams
Rozelle then joined the Los Angeles Rams as its public relations specialist. In 1957, he was offered and accepted the position of Rams’ General Manager. As General Manager, Rozelle was responsible for turning the Los Angeles team into a huge financial success.
3. NFL Commissioner
In 1959, Rozelle was chosen to replace the recently deceased commissioner and take over as NFL Commissioner. When Rozelle first took office there were twelve teams in the NFL. Each of the twelve teams played a twelve game schedule. Rarely, if ever, were their games played in full stadiums. With only a few teams even being televised, Rozelle started working on building the league. By the time that Rozelle resigned as commissioner there were 28 NFL teams, all of which has contracts with broadcasting networks. Rozelle’s business model made the NFL into the powerhouse that it is today.
4. All Games Are Televised
Rozelle arranged for all games played between his teams to be televised. In addition to gaining exposure, the move forced networks to compete for sporting time slots. This led to more healthy competition and a business model that closely resembled that of the popular American Football League, which was playing at the time.
5. In The Wake of President Kennedy’s Assassination
On November 24, 1963, two days following the assassination of President Kennedy, Rozelle decided to go forward with having his teams all play their scheduled games. Rozelle later regretted the move but did council with the White House Press Secretary prior to the decision and was advised that it may be a positive thing for the teams to play. The decision brought Rozelle a lot of attention.
6. “Sportsman of the Year”
Rozelle’s impressive work in expanding the NFL and ability to work well with all of the team managers earned him Sports Illustrated magazine’s 1963 “Sportsman of the Year” award.
7. Merging the NFL and the AFL
Rozelle negotiated the merger between the American Football League and the NFL. After promising that the teams and their players would remain in their respective cities, congress allowed for the merger to take place. The American Football League commissioner Al Davis was also influential in Rozelle’s agreement to create the Super Bowl and Monday Night Football.
8. Monday Night Football
It was in the 1970’s that Rozelle was able to see the fruits of his labors. For over a decade he had pushed for league expansion and had seen the number of NFL teams double in that time. Monday Night Football became a staple of American television viewing and the Super Bowl became the single most watched televised event of the year.
9. All Good Things…
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and so was the case with Rozelle. Scandals and power struggles hindered progress. Teams moved from their home states, Rozelle and Al Davis were constantly battling for supremacy and players were pushing for higher salaries. Lawsuits took over the spotlight and legal fees ate up a large sum of money.
10. Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
While still serving as commissioner, Rozelle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1989, an annual Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award was established.