DALLAS – Lamar Hunt, the pro sports visionary who owned the
Kansas City Chiefs and came up with the term “Super Bowl,” died Wednesday night. He was 74.
Hunt, a founder of the American Football League and one of the driving forces behind the AFL-NFL merger, died at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas of complications from prostate cancer, Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said.
Hunt battled cancer for several years and was hospitalized the day before Thanksgiving with a partially collapsed lung. Doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, and Hunt had been under heavy sedation since last week.
The son of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, Lamar Hunt grew up in Dallas and attended a private boys’ prep school in Pennsylvania, serving as captain of the football team in his senior year. His love of sports led to his nickname, “Games.”
Hunt played football at SMU, but never rose above third string. His modest achievements on the field were dwarfed by his accomplishments as an owner and promoter of teams in professional football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer and bowling.
Hunt’s business dealings were also the stuff of headlines. Hunt didn’t need to make money â€” his father was an oil wildcatter who was often referred to as the richest man in the world. But he tried to build on his father’s wealth.
Along with two brothers, Hunt tried to corner the silver market in 1979 and 1980. Their oil investments also soured in the 1980s. Some estimated the family’s losses in the billions.
Hunt also suffered setbacks in the world of pro sports, but overcame them.
When NFL owners rebuffed Hunt’s attempt to buy a franchise and move it to Dallas, Hunt â€” ignoring his father’s advice â€” founded the AFL. He owned one of the AFL’s eight original teams from the inaugural 1960 season, the Dallas Texans.
The Texans, however, struggled in head-to-head competition with the expansion
Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. Convinced that both franchises would suffer as long as Dallas remained a two-team city, Hunt moved the Texans to Kansas City in 1963.
“I looked around and figured Kansas City could be a success,” he told The Associated Press. “By our fourth or fifth year, we started to succeed. The Cowboys of course did very well too.”
Hunt realized his dream of becoming an NFL owner after the two leagues reached a merger deal in 1966.
In 1967, the Chiefs lost the first AFL-NFL championship â€” it was then called the World Championship Game. Three years later, the Chiefs beat the
Minnesota Vikings for the title.
By then, the championship game had been christened the Super Bowl. Hunt came up with the name while watching his children play with a SuperBall.
In 1972, Hunt became the first AFL figure to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and each year the Lamar Hunt Trophy goes to the winner of the NFL’s American conference.
Hunt long campaigned to let teams other than Dallas and Detroit play at home on Thanksgiving Day. To honor his effort, the NFL scheduled a third game on the holiday this year â€” in Kansas City. Hunt missed it, though, because he was in the hospital and couldn’t get the game on TV.
Counting pro football, Hunt has been inducted into eight halls of fame, including ones for soccer and tennis as well as the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Kansas City Business Hall of Fame.
Hunt is survived by wife Norma, children Lamar Jr., Sharron Munson, Clark and Daniel; and 13 grandchildren.
In addition to the Chiefs, Hunt had other sports and business interests. He did much to shape pro football today. RIP.
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