(Photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
The first weekend of February could be a special weekend for Jerry Jones, both personally and professionally. A very special weekend.
Professionally, as owner of the Dallas Cowboys, his team holds the top seed in the NFC playoff bracket and has a clear path to the Super Bowl Feb. 5 with potentially two January home games. Personally, Jones has a chance that weekend to join his former players Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Larry Allen, Charles Haley and Deion Sanders with a bust in the Canton.
Jones was selected as one of two contributor candidates for the Hall’s Class of 2017. There have been three previous candidates in the recently-created “contributor” category and all three have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The selection committee meets on Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl, to vote on the Class of 2017.
Jones has a 28-year NFL resume for his candidacy – and it’s worthy of a gold jacket.
Jones purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and bankrolled a team that became the first in NFL history to win three Super Bowls in a span of four years. But championships are merely a prerequisite for Hall of Fame discussion. There are 11 owners in Canton and they have a combined 27 championship rings.
The strength of the Jones candidacy is what he did outside of his own building — his impact on the marketing of the NFL. He single-handedly altered the NFL’s financial dynamic and changed the way the league does business. When Jones talks money, the NFL listens.
When Jones purchased the Cowboys, the bottom line reflected revenues from two primary sources, ticket sales and television. He spent $140 million — $70 million for the Cowboys and $70 more for the Texas Stadium lease. That was considered crazy money to spend on a lease at the time because an NFL team only played 10 games per year in its stadium.
But Jones taught his fellow owners how to make money with their stadiums by selling sponsorships to Nike, Pepsi and American Express to become the official shoe, soft drink and credit-card company respectively of Texas Stadium.
To maximize the investment in their teams, his fellow owners needed to get out of older stadiums into newer ones, which would allow them to control the suites, sponsorships and naming rights. Among others, the Eagles needed to get out of the Vet, the Falcons needed to get out of Fulton-County Stadium, the Rams needed out of Anaheim Stadium and the Vikings out of the Metrodome — buildings those franchises shared with baseball teams.
That triggered a construction boom of football-specific stadiums. There have been 23 new NFL stadiums built since Jones bought the Cowboys, including football’s first billion-dollar palace — AT&T Stadium in Arlington that houses the Cowboys. A 24th new stadium is now in the works in Los Angeles. The money produced from those stadiums is poured into the league’s revenue pot, which explains why the NFL salary cap has zoomed from $34.6 million in its inaugural year (1994) to $155.2 million in 2016.
So the financial acumen of Jones has benefitted both the players and owners. Jones also built his own franchise into the most valuable sporting property in the world, according to Forbes magazine. The Cowboys finally overtook world soccer powers Manchester United, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona for the top spot in 2016.
Jones also flipped the room in 2016 on Los Angeles, turning a league recommendation for the Raiders-Chargers proposal into a yes vote for the Rams. Jones laid out the financial benefits of awarding the Los Angeles market to an owner (Stan Kroenke) who already had the money and the land in place to succeed — and the NFL desperately needs to succeed in Los Angeles this time around.
Again, when Jones talks money, the NFL listens.
Jones also stood up in 1993 to oppose the Paul Tagliabue-Art Modell proposal to give back money to the television networks because revenues had gone flat. Jones lobbied for the league to allow Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Network into the bidding, which triggered an explosion of television revenues.
So instead of giving money back in 1993, the NFL achieved a 20 percent increase in the network payout to $4.38 billion for the four-year contract negotiated in 1994. Twenty-two years later, those TV contracts are now worth $6.45 billion.
Jones has served two terms on the NFL competition committee, which serves as the league’s watchdog on all things football. He serves on the executive committee of the NFL management council, which advises the league on all things financial. He also is the current chairman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the NFL Network committees.
Jerry Jones has been a plus for the Cowboys and a plus for the NFL. It’s time the Hall of Fame returns the favor.