David Dixon (businessman)

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David Dixon (June 4, 1923 – August 8, 2010)[1] was an American businessman and sports executive who helped create the New Orleans Saints NFL team, the Louisiana Superdome, World Championship Tennis (WCT) and the United States Football League (USFL).[2] An alumnus of Tulane University, Dixon created the New Orleans Professional Football Club, Inc., to lobby for an NFL or an AFL franchise for that city starting in 1962.

In the 1961 season the Oakland Raiders finished 1-13, but their starting quarterback was a rookie named Darryl Lamonica, and several other future Hall of Fame players were on that team, as well. The owner decided to sell the team to Dixon for $236,000, and the team would have become the New Orleans Raiders; however, the mayor of Oakland interceded and helped put a group together that included head coach Al Davis, and the team remained in Oakland.

After persuading the AFL to play its 1965 All-Star game in New Orleans, Dixon experienced a setback when black players encountered discrimination in the French Quarter. The AFL moved the game to Houston.[3] Later in the year, Dixon first proposed a football league, also called the USFL, that would play its games in the spring rather than the fall. Dixon eventually used the formation of this league to persuade the NFL to expand into New Orleans, which is how the New Orleans Saints came into being on November 1, 1966.[4]

New Orleans Saints[edit]

On November 1, 1966, the efforts of Dixon and Governor John McKeithen paid off when the NFL awarded its 16th franchise to New Orleans. On November 8, after Dixon had persuaded McKeithen to endorse financing of a domed stadium, New Orleans voters approved funding to construct the Superdome. Along with John W. Mecom, Dixon became a part owner of the Saints.[5]

World Championship Tennis (WCT)[edit]

In 1967, future USFL founder Dixon persuaded his friend and the AFL founder Lamar Hunt to finance World Championship Tennis. After signing John Newcombe to a professional contract, Dixon persuaded Cliff Drysdale, Nikki Pilić, Roger Taylor, Tony Roche, Dennis Ralston, Pierre Barthes, and Butch Buchholz, seven of the world's ten best male tennis players, to turn pro within a few weeks. The US Open, the French Open, the Australian Open, and the Wimbledon Championships, formerly limited to amateur players, admitted professionals, and the popularity of the game grew dramatically. Remarkably, within ten years the leading money winner on the tennis pro tour was earning more money than the leading money winner on the pro golf tour.[6]

United States Football League[edit]

Starting in 1980, Dixon was again proposing a pro football league that played its games in the spring and summer.[7] On May 11, 1982, Dixon was able to announce the formation of the 12-team league,[8] which played for three seasons from 1983 to 1985. After becoming the founder of the USFL, Dixon sold his franchise rights and departed the league.

Later career[edit]

After the USFL voted to switch to a fall schedule, Dixon made several attempts to revive spring football. In 1985, he gave a speech at the Harvard Business School, proposing "America's Football Teams, Inc.", a professional league that would sell shares of stock as part of a ticket purchase.[9] After the Fox Television Network was launched in 1987, Dixon proposed the "American Football Federation", which would have 10 teams and draft academically ineligible high school graduates.[10] In 1996, Dixon announced the "FanOwnership Football League", whose teams played from September to March and would sell 70 percent of their stock to the general public. None of Dixon's proposals got beyond the planning stages.[11]

In 2008, he published an autobiography The Saints, The Superdome, and the Scandal: An Insider's Perspective.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dave Dixon, driving force behind Superdome, dies Sunday morning, The Times-Picayune, August 8, 2010
  2. ^ Richard Goldstein, "David F. Dixon, Force Behind Saints and Superdome, Dies at 87", New York Times, August 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "AFL Game Shifts to Houston", Oakland Tribune, January 11, 1965, p. 31
  4. ^ Dallas Times-Herald, April 11, 1965; "Dallas GM Says NFL Planning Live Football January to May", Waterloo Sunday Courier, April 11, 1965, p. 42
  5. ^ "New Orleans Gets Newest NFL Franchise", Fresno Bee, November 1, 1966, p. 1-C
  6. ^ "Want Cash? Play Tennis", Tucson Daily Citizen, January 4, 1968, p. 28
  7. ^ "New pro football league in the works," Chicago Daily Herald, September 23, 1980, Sec. 4, p. 5
  8. ^ "Owner excited over new USFL", Syracuse Herald Journal, May 12, 1982, p. D-4
  9. ^ "Another Pro Football League?", Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, May 11, 1985, p. A-10
  10. ^ "New spring football league seeks TV deal," Pacific Stars and Stripes, January 11, 1965, p. 25
  11. ^ "Here's alternative for fans who are fed up", Chicago Daily Herald, November 29, 1996, Sec. 2, p. 1