Dan Rooney, who succeeded his father as Steelers team president and rose to become one of the most powerful and beloved owners in sports, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Dan Rooney Cause of Death
The Steelers won four championships in six years — Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV, under Rooney’s direction. He also played an integral role in the 1974 draft class, considered the greatest class in NFL history, in which the Steelers picked four of five future Hall of Famers — Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.
The NFL’s Rooney Rule, named after Dan Rooney, was created as a reaction to the firings of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Tony Dungy and Minnesota Viking Coach Dennis Green. The purpose of the Rooney Rule is to sure that minority coaches, specifically African American coaches, would be considered for high-level coaching positions in the NFL.
The Rooney Rule is a NFL policy that requires the league’s teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. Established in 2003, variations of the Rooney Rule are now in place in other fields.
Rooney loomed large away from football as well. He was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 2009 by President Barack Obama and served until his resignation in 2012. In March 2016, the Jackie Robinson Foundation honored Rooney with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
The legendary NFL owner was born July 20, 1932, in Pittsburgh, to Art Rooney Sr., who founded the Steelers the following year. Dan played football for North Catholic High School, and made the 1949 all-Catholic League second team. Who’d he lost the first team spot to? None other than future Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas — whom the Steelers later signed, and cut.
Dan Rooney started working for his father in 1955 after graduating from Duquesne University. He was named president of the Steelers in 1975 and held that position until 2002, when he took on the role of chairman and his son, Art Rooney II, took over the presidency.