Denver owner Pat Bowlen, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August as part of the Class of 2019, died late Thursday night at his home.
He was 75.
No cause of death was revealed, though Bowlen had suffered from Alzheimer’s for years.
After buying the Broncos in 1984, Bowlen became one of the most powerful and successful owners in the NFL. He was the first NFL owner to have his team with 300 games, including the playoffs, in three decades and had as many Super Bowl appearances (seven) as losing seasons.
Moreover, the Broncos' 13 division titles since 1984 rank second only to New England.
Bowlen is also the only NFL owner to reach the Super Bowl with four different coaches -- Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan, John Fox and Gary Kubiak. The Broncos won three Super Bowls under his direction, with Super Bowl 50 their most recent.
But it was as head of the league’s broadcast committee that Bowlen achieved as much – if not more – success. He helped negotiate the network rights that in 1993 ushered in FOX and NBC as broadcast partners, nearly doubling TV revenues. Five years later he led negotiations in the NFL’s $18-billion TV deal, the largest single-sport contract in TV history.
Then, in 2006, Bowlen was what former Dick Ebersol, the former head of NBC Sports, called “the single major force in the creation of Sunday Night Football.” It was Bowlen’s work with the broadcast committee that provoked Ebersol to say Bowlen “changed pro football forever” and that helped promote his Hall-of-Fame candidacy.
Along with former Dallas executive Gil Brandt, Bowlen was elected as a contributor candidate in February. The two will be enshrined in Canton on Aug. 3.
“Pat’s leadership helped shape the NFL into what it is today,” said Hall-of-Fame president and CEO David Baker. “He also transformed the Denver Broncos into one of the finest franchises in the league and gave a winning identity to an entire region. He was a man who lived life with passion, conviction and demonstrated the highest level of integrity at all times.
“We are fortunate to have ‘knocked on the door’ of the Bowlen family (at Super Bowl LIII) while he was still with us and we will preserve his life and character and legacy forever in Canton.”
Hall-of-Fame flags at the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s campus will be flown at half-staff until Bowlen is laid to rest.
Follow Clark Judge on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF