By BRAD BIGGS
CHICAGO TRIBUNE |
MAY 16, 2020 | 6:51 PM
Former Bears President Michael McCaskey, shown in this January 1999 photo, has died at 76.(JOSE MORE / CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
Michael McCaskey, who took over the reins of the Chicago Bears from his grandfather George Halas in 1983 before the team achieved its greatest moment two years later, died Saturday. He was 76.
McCaskey became the president and CEO of the Bears in 1983 and remained at the helm of the organization in a long run, serving as the chairman of the board from 1999 until 2011, when he stepped down and was replaced by his brother George.
McCaskey battled cancer for a considerable time. The oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey’s 11 children, McCaskey is survived by two children, John and Kathryn, and one grandson, Jackson.
“Mike was already successful in every sense of the word when he took over for George S. Halas after the passing of ‘Papa Bear’ in 1983,” the McCaskey family said in a statement released by the team. “We are grateful to Mike for overseeing arguably the greatest team in NFL history, and for his many years of service to the Bears and to us. The oldest of eleven siblings has many duties thrust upon him, not all of them pleasant, yet Mike handled them all with grace and patience.
“Although Mike’s passing was not brought on by the novel coronavirus, our family, like so many people, is not able to gather and grieve together at this time. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Our focus in the coming days will be to celebrate Mike’s life and be whatever source of support we can be to John and Kathryn and those they love.”
During McCaskey’s long run with the organization, the Bears were crowned Super Bowl XX champions, and he was named NFL executive of the year following the 1985 season. The club left its old headquarters at Lake Forest College for Halas Hall in 1997. Soldier Field was remodeled in 2002, when McCaskey served as chairman of the board. The Bears hired the first African-American head coach in franchise history, Lovie Smith, in 2004. He founded Bears Care, the team’s charitable arm, in 2005. The team reached the NFC championship game after the 2010 season, shortly before McCaskey stepped down.
“My heart is heavy as I think about Michael McCaskey, and I can’t believe he is no longer with us,” Ted Phillips, the team’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “His fierce love of the Bears was unmatched, as was his intellectual capacity and thirst for knowledge on a myriad of subjects. Michael displayed a professorial presence that could be challenging, but was also inspiring. I will be forever grateful for the many opportunities for growth that he provided me, as well as for his trust and support.
“Michael always strived to do things the right way with high character and with the Bears best interests always paramount. Michael was a good man, gone much too soon. He presided over the only Super Bowl Championship Chicago Bears team in 1985, and I know he is still smiling about that magical season. God bless Michael and his family.”
McCaskey graduated from Yale in 1965 with majors in philosophy and psychology and spent two years in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia 1965-67). He earned his doctorate in business from Case Western Reserve in 1972 and went on to become a professor at UCLA and the Harvard Business School.
McCaskey traveled and explored his passion for photography after retiring.