CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Chicago Bears President Michael B. McCaskey has died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
McCaskey was 76 years old.
“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. “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.”
McCaskey’s death was not related to the novel coronavirus, but still, because of social distancing rules brought on by the pandemic, the family cannot gather and grieve together.
“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,” the McCaskey family said in a statement.
NFL Chairman Roger Goodell also released a statement:
“Michael McCaskey proudly carried forth the legacy of his grandfather and NFL pioneer George Halas as team president and chairman and played an instrumental role in the success and popularity of the Bears. The Bears’ memorable 1985 season and their Super Bowl XX victory helped further propel the NFL onto a global stage. Michael was a driving force in growing the NFL’s international footprint with the first American Bowl game in London featuring the Bears and the Dallas Cowboys in 1986. He was also dedicated to serving his community and helped create Bears Care, which became a model foundation in supporting charities throughout the Chicago area. Michael was a calm and sound voice in league meetings, befitting of his time as a professor before becoming Bears’ president. We extend our deepest sympathies to Michael’s children Kathryn and John, his mother Virginia and the entire McCaskey family, and the Bears organization.”
McCaskey joined Bears management in 1983, succeeding his grandfather, George S. Halas, as President and Chief Executive Officer. He held that position in 1999, at which point he became the team’s chairman.
The Bears had eight playoff seasons under McCaskey’s leadership, claiming six NFC Central division titles. Most famously, the Bears were crowned Super Bowl XX Champions during the 1985-86 season, after which McCaskey was voted NFL executive of the year.
McCaskey was also chairman of the board for the Bears from 1999 to 2011. He was replaced by his brother George upon stepping down.
It was under McCaskey’s guidance that the Bears moved from the original Halas Hall on the Lake Forest College campus to its present home in 1997.
McCaskey was also the cofounder of the team’s charitable foundation Bears Care in 2005. It has granted more than $21 million to more than 100 agencies throughout the Chicago area.
As CBS 2’s Matt Zahn reported, McCaskey was often a lightning rod for criticism. But he always handled it with a sense of humor.
McCaskey was the oldest of Virginia and Ed McCaskey’s 11 children. He is survived by two children and one grandson.