When the Oakland Raiders secured their victory over the Houston Texans on Oct. 9, a day after the death of their controversial owner Al Davis, a bittersweet celebration ensued for the franchise.
After safety Michael Huff intercepted a pass in the red zone on the final play, Raiders head coach Hue Jackson fell to his knees and let out an emotional sob. Huff celebrated with his teammates, who dedicated the win to “Coach Al.” Davis’ son, Mark Davis, took his father’s place in the owner’s box and was also in tears after the game.
“I can’t call Coach [Al Davis] and ask what he thinks about this or that,” Jackson told the Associated Press. “I’m not going to get any of those late-night phone calls at 11 p.m. or midnight.”
An outspoken figure that was criticized for his gutsy tactics, but praised for taking care of his players, Allen “Al” Davis began his career with the American Football League and the Raiders when he was hired as head coach and general manager in 1963, according to the Denver Post.
He became the AFL commissioner in 1966, but resigned when the AFL and the NFL agreed to a merger, according to the Denver Post. He rejoined the Raiders when he purchased 10 percent of the franchise and became a general managing partner.
In 1969, Davis hired John Madden as head coach, who helped lead the Raiders into becoming a winning franchise. From 1970 to 1985, the team won eight division championships, made the playoffs 12 times and won three Super Bowls.
Davis was a trailblazer and helped diversify the NFL. He hired the first Latino coach of the NFL, Tom Flores in 1979 and hired the first African-American head coach, Art Shell, in 1988, according to the AP.
He also appointed the first and only female CEO in the league today, Amy Trask, according to the Denver Post.
“He’s a decorated football coach as well as an executive,” said Cosumnes River College’s Sports Information Officer Nicholas Podesta. “He was instrumental and basically changed the NFL to where it is today in terms of the American consciousness.”
Davis was also well-known for caring about people. He paid for the health insurance of retirees and recruited players with questionable pasts.
“He gave players second chances, players that were on their way out of the league,” said Robert Love, a 40-year-old graphics design major. “He was a very outspoken owner, and it was good for football.”
However, Davis had his fair share of controversy. He was involved in several lawsuits, including one that involved moving the Raiders’ franchise to Los Angeles in 1982.
He won the legal battle but moved back to Oakland in 1995. He proceeded to sue the NFL, claiming that he owed the L.A. market but lost, according to the AP.
Davis was also notable for clashing with his staff and players. He benched several players because of contract conflicts, including quarterback Marcus Allen, the Raiders’ Super Bowl XVII MVP, according to ESPN.
“His image is the Raiders—his hard nose, his stubbornness. That’s how the Raiders are,” Andre Williams, a 26-year-old fire technology major said.
“To me, that’s good for the game of football. The more exciting your owner is, the more involved he is, the more involved your players are going to be, the more success your team is going to have.”