According to a 2010 profile on Steelers.com, Haslam has been a Dallas Cowboys and then an Indianapolis Colts fan. But with the Pittsburgh investment, Haslam said he had become “1,000 percent a Steelers fan.”
The Haslam brothers are supporters of the University of Tennessee, where their father Jim Haslam played tackle on the 1951 national championship football team under Gen. Robert R. Neyland, who built the Volunteers into a football powerhouse.
The elder Haslam founded the Pilot Corp. in 1958 with a single gas station in Gate City, Va. He credits sons Bill and Jimmy with expanding the chain from mostly gas stations and convenience stores to a “travel center” concept of truck stops featuring branded fast food service.
But the current staff might be if the Browns don’t do better than the 4-12 record of 2011, Pat Shurmur’s first season as coach. New owners usually bring in their own management team, although Shurmur has impressed many people around the league.
“I have no fear about any of that because I trust my coaches, I trust the players and I’ve watched the work they’ve done based on the conversation of this last week,” Shurmur said Thursday. “I think we’re moving full steam ahead. That doesn’t bother me one bit at this point at this point. My concern is getting this team ready to play and our players understand that message and they are doing a good job.”
“Honestly, my focus is to have guys here concentrating on football, making it business as usual,” he said. “The what ifs and hypotheticals, I have to stay away from.”
Haslam would be the sixth majority owner of the Browns: team founder Mickey McBride (1945-1953), David Jones (1953-1961), Art Modell (1961-1995), Al Lerner (1998-2002), and Randy Lerner (2002-present). An NFL trust also oversaw the inactive franchise from 1996-1998.
Cleveland last won the NFL championship in 1964, beating Johnny Unitas and the then-Baltimore Colts 27-0.
The Browns have never been to the Super Bowl.
Freelance writers Brian Dulik and Chuck Murr in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this story.