Today would have been Tom Benson's 94th Birthday. He was the epitome of New Orleans, being born and raised in the Crescent City. He purchased the Saints in 1985 at a cost of $70 million, which proved to be a major bargain. Training camps have a certain element that's missing from them, as fans can fondly remember Benson and the golf cart rides paying respect to them coming out to practices and such. It was one of the many memories Benson brought to the table.
Drew Brees spent his first day of retirement visiting places around the city that were special to him, which included Benson's gravesite. That certainly says a lot about his character. His legacy lives on through a multitude of places, which include Benson Tower, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Benson Field at Tulane's Yulman Stadium, Tom Benson School, and The Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center, to name a few.
- May 31, 1985 – Tom Benson purchases New Orleans Saints.
- Jan. 14, 1986 – Jim Finks is hired by Benson as president/general manager.
- Jan. 28, 1986 – Jim Mora is hired as head coach.
- Dec. 27, 1987 – With a 33‐24 win over Green Bay, the Saints close out the regular season at 12‐3, the franchise’s first winning record and would go on to play in their first playoff game the following week.
- Jan. 3, 1988 – Saints play in their first playoff contest vs. Minnesota.
- Dec. 22, 1991 – In a 27‐3 win at the Phoenix Cardinals, the Saints win their first division title in franchise history with an 11‐5 record as the defense allowed 211 points, the fewest allowed in the NFL.
- Dec. 26, 1992 – The Saints close out a 12‐4 regular season, where they gave up a league‐best and club record 202 points, also leading the NFL with 57 sacks, while surrendering only 15, the first time since 1977 a club led the league in both categories.
- April 25, 1993 – Saints draft eventual NFL Hall of Famer William Roaf in first round.
- April 15, 1996 – A state‐of‐the‐art training facility is opened in Metairie, housing the entire Saints organization for the first time in club history, which would later be expanded with an indoor facility and is now called the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
- Dec. 30, 2000 – After winning the NFC West with a 10‐6 record, the Saints record the franchise’s first playoff win with a 31‐28 victory over the St. Louis Rams at the Superdome.
- May 13, 2002 – Mickey Loomis is promoted to General Manager.
- Sept. 8, 2005 – The New Orleans Saints Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund is launched, which would eventually distribute over $1 million dollars to benefit causes in the Gulf South.
- Jan. 18, 2006 – Sean Payton is hired as Head Coach.
- March 14, 2006 – Drew Brees agrees to a five‐year contract.
- Sept. 25, 2006 – In the team’s return to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina, the Saints defeat the Atlanta Falcons 23‐3 before a nationally televised audience.
- Jan. 13, 2007 – The Saints defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 27‐24 in the NFC Divisional Playoff round and advance to the Conference Championship for the first time.
- May 5, 2008 – Tom Benson announces plans to purchase WVUE‐TV FOX 8, making it the city’s only locally‐owned television station.
- April 30, 2009 – Tom Benson negotiates a lease extension with the State of Louisiana and the Saints through 2025, which resulted in extensive renovations to the Mercedes‐Benz Superdome, the construction of Champions Square outside the facilities and the purchase of an adjacent office building renamed Benson Tower, which was put back into circulation at full occupancy to help revitalize the city’s Central Business District.
- Dec. 13, 2009 – After their 26‐23 win at Atlanta, the Saints will have won their first 13 games of the season.
- Jan. 24, 2010 – With a 31‐28 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship, the Saints capture the first Conference Championship victory in team history.
- Feb. 6, 2010 – Rickey Jackson becomes the first Saints player to spend the majority of his career with the club to be voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Feb. 7, 2010 – New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.
- 2010 – In the wake of a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Benson and the Saints establish the Saints Gulf Coast Renewal Fund, which distributes over $1.5 million to local charities.
- 2011 – Saints finish 13‐3, winning the NFC South and set the NFL single‐season record with 7,474 total net yards.
- Feb. 4, 2012 – William Roaf voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- May 20, 2012 – Dennis Lauscha, an employee for over 20 years, is promoted by Mr. Benson to Team President.
- June 15, 2012 – Tom Benson purchases the New Orleans Hornets NBA franchise, which he would rename and rebrand the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013.
- Nov. 10, 2013 – Rickey Jackson, Archie Manning and William Roaf are the first three inductees into club’s Ring of Honor.
- Jan. 4, 2014 – Saints win NFC Wild Card Playoff at Philadelphia, 26‐24 for franchise’s first road playoff win.
- June 15, 2015 – Former Saints Steve Gleason is selected as the Pro Football Writers Association’s George Halas Award winner.
- Feb 4, 2017 – Morten Andersen, the NFL’s all‐time leading scorer, was selected to the 2017 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- July 26, 2017 – Tom Benson purchases the iconic Dixie Beer brand.
- Aug. 3, 2017 – A completely renovated Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium is dedicated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Benson donated $10 million to the stadium renovation project and another $1 million towards the construction of a planned retirement facility on the Hall’s grounds for retired NFL players.
- 2017 – The Saints finish the season 11‐5, qualify for the playoffs for the 11th time and capture their sixth division title, advancing to the NFC divisional round. Seven Saints are selected to the Pro Bowl for only the second time in franchise history.
The Saints inducted Benson into their Ring of Honor during the season opener against Tampa Bay in 2018. His loss was felt around the entire league, and everyone spoke so highly of him. He meant something special to everyone in a very unique way.
Goodell also said in his league statement, "He purchased a team that had never had a winning season; by the third year of his ownership, the Saints were in the playoffs. Tom kept the Saints together through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and his decision to bring the team back to New Orleans gave the entire region hope and confidence that they would recover. The Saints rewarded their fans with tremendous football and a Super Bowl championship."
"Tom loved New Orleans, where he was a generous and caring philanthropist. Within the NFL, he was a true leader among NFL owners. He served as the chairman of the League's Finance Committee for many years, was a key advisor to my predecessors, and was someone whom I frequently turned to since becoming Commissioner. I know that the entire NFL family joins me in extending our most heartfelt condolences to Gayle Benson and the entire Saints organization."
“The New Orleans Saints and the city of New Orleans meant so much to my husband,” said Saints Owner Gayle Benson. “He was so proud of them and wanted the team and the entire region to be admired worldwide. He was also grateful to our fans for their commitment to the Saints. That passion and support of our fans inspired him to give back to the community like he did. His impact will always be felt and this is a great way for our organization and our fans to honor his legacy.”
An excerpt from Payton's Sports Illustrated column remembering Benson.
I just wish every Saints fan had the privilege I had. I got to be mentored by Mr. Benson for over a decade. Almost every day since I got the job coaching the Saints, Mr. Benson, a very behind-the-scenes owner, would give me some football—and life—advice.
I’d walk into his office in the morning. He’d always have a bowl filled with Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses. I’d grab a couple of pieces of the candy and sit there for a few minutes, maybe longer, and listen. This is when we’d talk on a variety of topics. In every meeting, some piece of wisdom from his life in New Orleans, his business life, his military life, his sporting life, would pass from him to me.
"It's hard for me to talk about it because I'm pretty emotional right now and I am because he gave me an opportunity when a lot of others might not have, and then, listen, he stuck with me through some rough times when others might not have. He saw something in me and believed in what we could accomplish."
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