TEMPE, Ariz. — Longtime Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill died Wednesday while surrounded by his family and loved ones, the team announced. He was 88.
“We are overwhelmed by the support our family has received, not only now but throughout the latest chapter of his life,” Bidwill’s son, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, said in a release. “We are especially grateful to the nurses, doctors and other caregivers whose endless kindness and compassion in recent years have made our dad’s life so meaningful.
“Above all else, we will remember him as a man devoted to the three central pillars of his life — his immense faith, his love for his family and his life-long passion for the Cardinals and the sport of football.”
In Remembrance of Mr. B
Read by Larry Fitzgerald pic.twitter.com/YKAO0Awtrp
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 2, 2019
Bill Bidwill’s father, Charles, bought the Chicago Cardinals in 1932 and Bill was associated with the team for eight decades. He started as a ball boy as a child and went to work for the team full time in 1960 — the Cardinals’ first season in St. Louis — after a stint in the Navy. He became owner in 1972; the team moved to Arizona in 1988.
Bidwill gave up day-to-day operations to Michael in 2007, when Michael became the team president.
Under Bidwill’s ownership, the Cardinals toiled in mediocrity. They had five winning seasons from 1972 until Ken Whisenhunt was hired as head coach in 2007, Michael’s first year in charge. The Cardinals went to their first and only Super Bowl the next season.
Despite a lack of success on the field, Bidwill was ahead of the curve with diversity in the NFL. He hired the first black female executive in league history, Adele Harris; the NFL’s first black contract negotiator, Bob Wallace; and the league’s first black head coach-general manager tandem, Dennis Green and Rod Graves.
The Cardinals established the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship in 2015 as a way to promote and increase diversity on their coaching staff.
Bill and his wife, Nancy, were married for 56 years before she died in 2016. Together they had five children: Nicole, Bill Jr., Patrick, Tim and Michael.
Bidwill is survived by his five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“Bill Bidwill was part of the NFL family his entire life, starting from his days as a ball boy through his time as an owner,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Although never one to seek the spotlight, Bill had an incredible sense of humor and he made extraordinary contributions to the NFL. 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.”