NASHVILLE — After 40 years with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans organization, President and CEO Steve Underwood officially retired from full-time duties Friday. The team elevated senior vice president of business operations and chief legal officer Burke Nihill to Underwood’s role.
Underwood will remain with Tennessee as a Senior Counselor.
“I want to start by thanking Steve personally on behalf of myself and my family” said Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk in a statement. “Steve’s remarkable 40-year Oilers/Titans career places him among the titans of professional sports executives. His dedication to our franchise is unmatched and I am glad he will remain with us as a Senior Counselor.”
Underwood served through many pivotal moments in franchise history, starting as the Oilers’ legal representation before joining them as General Counsel in 1991. His roles have been varied in his time since, but Underwood acted as the principal negotiator in relocating the then Oilers to Tennessee and bringing the NFL to Nashville.
More importantly, the longtime Titans executive provided a steadying force.
Grade Steve Underwood’s mustache (A-F)
& then congratulate him on a great 40 year career, including Titans Team President. Underwood is retiring but will remain an advisor to Amy Adams Strunk, per @McClain_on_NFL pic.twitter.com/aM0dDGMopk
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) May 8, 2020
Underwood had previously retired in 2011. When Adams Strunk took control as the team’s front-facing owner in 2015, Underwood re-joined the franchise on an interim basis. The interim tag was removed from Underwood’s title in 2016.
Now, Nihill takes the reigns after a rapid ascension up the Titans’ organizational ladder.
“I am exceedingly grateful for and humbled by this opportunity,” said Nihill, per a team statement. “I am inspired by Amy’s vision for our franchise and look forward to collaborating with my talented colleagues to serve our fans, partners, and communities. From the NFL Draft on Broadway to a magical run to the AFC Championship, last year was a special season for Titans fans, but as an organization we believe the best is yet to come.
“I also want to offer my congratulations to Steve Underwood on his retirement. Steve has been an extraordinarily generous mentor and friend to me, and I’m thankful that we will continue to benefit from Steve’s experience and wisdom in his role as Senior Counselor.”
This will be Nihill’s second promotion within the the calendar year, receiving the title of senior vice president/business operations and chief legal officer in February. Five years with the organization and a close relationship with the man that he is to replace have made Adams Strunk and Tennessee’s brain trust comfortable with the move.
Overseeing legal and human resources for the Titans had been Nihill’s primary function before this latest promotion. His presence was also crucial in Nashville’s efforts in obtaining and planning for the 2019 NFL Draft. Prior to Tennessee, Nihill worked in legal and management roles at VMware, an international software company based in Silicon Valley.
Underwood will forever be a massive fixture in franchise history for the part that he played. What Nihill represents, however, is a substantial change from the old guard to the new. With five years as a staple of the team’s organizational growth, Nihill has shown plenty of promise in continuing that upward trajectory.
Featured Image: Senator Bob Corker – United States Senate.