Steve Underwood steps back from Full-Time Role
Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Titans elevated Burke Nihill to team President/CEO after being informed last month that current President/CEO Steve Underwood would be retiring from a full-time role. Underwood will remain as a Senior Counselor for the organization.
“I want to start by thanking Steve personally on behalf of myself and my family” said Amy Adams Strunk, Titans Controlling Owner. “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.
“When Steve informed me that he was ready to step away from a full-time role, it was immediately clear to me that Burke was the best choice for the job. Since starting with the club as the General Counsel, Burke has continued to take on additional responsibilities to the point that he has become an invaluable resource and an absolute superstar for our organization. I have great confidence in him and his leadership, and I know that the future is bright for the team.”
Nihill is entering his fifth season with the Titans in 2020. In February, he was promoted to Senior Vice President/Business Operations & Chief Legal Officer. He previously held the title of Vice President and General Counsel for the team. In his previous role, Nihill was responsible for the organization’s legal, human resources and government relations functions. With his promotion earlier this year, he also began overseeing stadium and facility operations.
In addition to his core responsibilities, Nihill has also taken the lead on other strategic projects for the team. He was instrumental in the effort to secure and execute the 2019 Draft in Nashville and is currently overseeing the renovation and expansion of Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Nihill came to the Titans in 2016 with 15 years of professional experience working as an attorney and strategic business counselor with companies ranging from technology startups to Fortune 500 businesses.
“I am exceedingly grateful for and humbled by this opportunity,” said Nihill. “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.”
Underwood’s history with the team dates back four decades. After initially retiring in 2011, Underwood re-joined the franchise on an interim basis in 2015, when Adams Strunk took over as controlling owner. In 2016, the interim tag was removed, becoming the team’s President and CEO. Underwood represented the Oilers as an attorney for Caldwell and Hurst, before officially joining the organization in 1991 as General Counsel.
“Stepping back from something you love doing is never easy,” said Underwood. “But this is a good time for my family and me to make a change, and there are lots of good reasons this is a great moment for transition for the club.
“We have an accomplished controlling owner who understands transitions and changes are basic to our business. Our football operations this past season reached a level of success not seen in over 15 years. Like all businesses, we have business challenges—underscored now by COVID-19 Coronavirus. We also have a next generation of leaders—including our new President—who are ready and capable of meeting any difficulty. This includes a pandemic our nation hasn’t seen in over a century.
“Amy’s selection of Burke Nihill as our next generation of business leadership is the result of his steady and worthy ability to forge relationships with our other executives and to seek consensus, while reserving the right to make the final decision. He exhibits all the traits that help create an atmosphere of achievement. I know from personal experience that Burke isn’t interested in personal accolades—only collective success. This is a hallmark of servant leadership. I might add that he has a great group of senior colleagues for counsel and guidance.
“Jenneen Kaufman has been with us for over 20 years and is among our most knowledgeable executives and community leaders. She will be indispensable to our progress moving forward.
“Gil Beverly has brought a quiet revolution to our new and traditional media, game day and sponsorship efforts. He is playing an important role in transforming our community and media relations and will be a crucial asset in our future success.
“I am not sure enough can be said about our General Manager and Head Coach. I have seen my share of leaders on the football side and these two men have transformed our club’s football fortunes in a matter of a very short time.
“I intend to remain as a confidant and aide to Amy for as long as she believes I can offer useful advice. To be honest, I don’t think she needs much help, but her asking me to stay on in a personal advisory role is a great honor for me and will allow me to spend more time with Frances and our girls, while remaining a resource to Amy and to her family. I am gratified she would ask me to have a continuing role.
“To leave a lifelong endeavor in good standing is a status few obtain in our business. I will be forever grateful.
“When I took my first retirement, my family and I spent time seeing many parts of the world for several years. My new role will give us a chance to travel again and spend time together while remaining in an advisory capacity to our controlling owner and her family. I’m not sure what more I could ask for.
“Serving the same family for over 40 years has been my greatest career privilege and one that few have enjoyed. Similarly, working in the National Football League for over four decades is a singular honor. Best of all, I have had the opportunity to work with so many great people in our organization—many of them for decades. I have let them know that when I am asked about my experiences in the NFL, my fondest memories will be having worked with so many talented colleagues who have made my work easier, helped with decision-making on so many levels, and who have demonstrated unflinching loyalty to our cause and our club.
“No leader can ask for more.”