William V. Bidwill, who owned the NFL’s Cardinals franchise in three cities, has died. He was 88.
The team announced that Bidwill passed away Wednesday. A cause of death wasn’t immediately given.
“Our dad passed away today the same way he lived his life: peacefully, with grace, dignity and surrounded by family and loved ones,” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said in a statement released by the franchise. “We are overwhelmed by the support our family has received, not only now but throughout the latest chapter of his life.”
Reviled by fans at times for what they perceived to be his penny-pinching ways, privately Bidwill was an extremely charitable man, distributing money to many local causes, usually done quietly with no publicity. Charitable contributions also were made through the Cardinals Foundation, formed shortly after the franchise moved from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988. It previously had been located in Chicago.
Bidwill ignored critics as the team went a half-century without a playoff victory before making it as a wild card team in 1998 and upsetting the Cowboys in Dallas.
Arizona made a surprising run to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season, defeating Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia in the playoffs before falling to Pittsburgh 27-23 on a late Steelers touchdown.
The bowtie-wearing Bidwill headed a family operation that dated to 1932, when his father Charles purchased the Chicago Cardinals, reportedly for $50,000. Young Bidwill was a ballboy for the 1947 team that won the franchise's lone NFL championship.
“Although never one to seek the spotlight, Bill had an incredible sense of humor and he made extraordinary contributions to the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Bill's vision brought the Cardinals, the NFL and multiple Super Bowls to Arizona.
“He was a leader in embracing diversity and employed the first African American female executive, and the first African American general manager and head coach tandem. We extend our condolences to Bill's family and the Cardinals organization, which along with his faith, meant so much to him.”