Art Modell is dead. The former NFL owner of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens has passed away in Baltimore at age 87. Here’s what you should know about him.
1. He Moved the Browns
Modell was villainized in Cleveland in 1996 when he moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, where, as the Ravens, they won a Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001, beating the Giants 34-7. He purchase the Browns with a group of investors for $4 million in 1961.
2. He Was an Architect of the Modern NFL
Modell was key in brokering the NFL’s deal with TV networks, bringing gobs of cash into the league. He also was the chairman who negotiated the league’s first collective bargaining agreement in 1968. He was league president from 1967 to 1969.
3. He Was the Father of Monday Night Football
Once upon a time there was no Monday Night Football. It was a dark period in history. But, thanks in large part to the efforts of Modell, the league contracted with ABC in 1970 to launch the now-legendary Monday Night franchise.
4. He Was Married to Famed Actress Patricia Breslin
In his second marriage, Modell married Breslin in 1969. He was a wealthy, famously eligible bachelor, and she was a beautiful TV actress who starred in The People’s Choice, appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, and later played Laura Brooks in Peyton Place and Meg Baldwin in General Hospital. She died less than a year ago in October 2011.
5. He Never Made the Hall of Fame
The ill-will surrounding the Browns’ move to Baltimore likely kept this NFL legend out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a finalist in 2001 and a semifinalist in seven additional years.
6. He Was Hands-On
Modell was a meddling owner. Early on he made a controversial move and fired legendary Browns head coach Paul Brown in 1963. The Browns won the NFL Championship the next year over John Shula and Johnny Unitas’ Baltimore Colts, but it was the last of Modell’s Browns teams to win a title.
7. He Dropped Out of High School at Age 15
Modell came from Brooklyn and, after his dad died, dropped out of high school to work in the navy yard to help pay the family’s bills. He went to night school and joined the Air Force. He studied television after World War II, worked in TV production, and then got into advertising.
8. He Was A Philanthropist Who Donated Millions
Among the the many charities boosted by donations and activism from Modell and his wife is the SEED School of Maryland, which serves disadvantaged kids.
9. He Was Busy in Business
Modell served on the boards of companies including Ohio Bell Telephone Co., Higbee Co. and 20th Century-Fox Film Corp.
10. He Was the Grandson of the Modell’s Founder
Art Modell’s grandfather, Morris Modell, founded Modell’s Sporting Goods in 1889. Today it’s a chain with about 140 locations, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars annually.