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Chicago Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey turned 100 years old on Thursday, ringing in the new year by reaching triple digits as the oldest primary owner of an NFL franchise.
With Chicago already eliminated from the playoffs, Sunday’s home game against the Minnesota Vikings marks the conclusion of McCaskey’s 40th season at the helm, a term that makes her the longest-tenured owner in the league. Pretty remarkable, especially considering she wasn’t initially groomed to inherit the team.
McCaskey is the eldest child of George Halas Sr., who originally joined the football club — then known as the Decatur Staleys — as a player/coach back in 1920. McCaskey was born just three years later in 1923 and grew up learning about her family’s team from her father, who acted as owner for six decades in addition to becoming the winningest coach in franchise history. (Halas currently ranks third in all-time wins — playoffs included — trailing just Don Shula and Bill Belichick.) But McCaskey was not originally meant to take the ownership torch from her father. Her younger brother, George “Mugs” Halas Jr., was tabbed as the heir apparent, working in the front office for nearly three decades before suddenly dying of a heart attack in 1979. When George Sr. passed away four years later, McCaskey assumed the role of principal owner of the franchise, a position she continues to hold to this day.
Like her father, who was affectionately nicknamed “Papa Bear,” McCaskey’s life is defined by the franchise. Over her four decades of ownership, Chicago has earned 14 postseason bids, won 11 division titles and made two Super Bowl appearances. The 1985 Bears, one of the NFL’s most legendary teams, obliterated the Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46-10. That title run, which came in the midst of five straight division crowns from 1984-88, remains the Bears’ only Super Bowl triumph to this day. (They won eight championships before the AFL-NFL merger.) Chicago hit Super Bowl Sunday for the second time in February of 2007, but lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts, 29-17.
Thirty Bears have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — the most of any NFL franchise — with a number of iconic names starring for Chicago during McCaskey’s ownership, including running back Walter Payton, defensive end Richard Dent and linebackers Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher.
Along with being the oldest and longest-tenured owner in the NFL today, McCaskey is also one of 12 current female owners.
Virginia Halas McCaskey is the matriarch of one of the most prominent ownership families in the history of American sports. On her 100th birthday, we celebrate a genuine football life.