NFL notes: Bills owner Ralph Wilson dead at 95

Updated: March 26, 2014
NFL notes: Bills owner Ralph Wilson dead at 95

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has died at the age of 95, the NFL team announced Tuesday.

Team president Russ Brandon announced Wilson’s death at the league’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Wilson has owned the Bills since 1959 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Wilson, who grew up in Detroit, purchased the team for $25,000 US. The Bills were worth an estimated $870 million as recently as August 2013, according to Forbes Magazine.

“Ralph Wilson was a driving force in developing pro football into America’s most popular sport,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Ralph always brought a principled and common-sense approach to issues.”

Mr. Wilson had been in failing health for several years after hip surgery in 2011.

Mr. Wilson’s one regret was the Bills’ inability to win a Super Bowl. They came close in the early 1990s, when the Marv Levy-coached and Jim Kelly-quarterbacked teams won four consecutive AFC championships from 1990-93, but lost the Super Bowl each time.

The future of the team is now in the hands of Brandon and Wilson’s second-in-command, Bills treasurer Jeffrey Littmann. The Bills are expected to be placed in a trust before eventually being sold.

Kelly has expressed interest in buying the franchise and has previously said he’s assembled a group of investors.

Kelly’s health, however, has become an issue this week. He is expected to have surgery for a second time in a year following the recurrence of cancer that his wife described as aggressive and “starting to spread.”

Dunkin’ do-not: League owners passed a rule that will ban players from dunking the football over the crossbar of the goalposts in celebration. Director of officiating Dean Blandino said the NFL is making a clarification of the rules for mutual respect and sportsmanship.

— Owners also passed a rule allowing referees to consult with Blandino and his staff to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned. NFL officials said the change should speed up the process.