When Jamey Rootes took over as Houston Texans president in 2000 — before the natural turf was even laid in then-Reliant Stadium — the team was a dream come true for so many fans who desperately missed their dearly departed Houston Oilers and pro football in the nation’s fourth-largest city.
The charismatic executive would eventually draw up the Texans off-field game plan for the next 20 years, a deft force often seen alongside original team owner Robert “Bob” McNair.
Now, the Texans president is walking away.
The Texans announced on February 10 that Rootes is departing after two decades to pursue his interests as a writer, public speaker, consultant, and professor at the University of Houston.
While the team’s success has been up and down — especially down, of late — Rootes is credited for smart marketing campaigns, high ticket sales, and generally, excellent fan engagement. He oversaw the team's stadium-naming rights and sponsorship, coordinated radio and TV broadcasting relationships, engineered the club's successful ticket and suite sales campaigns, led the creation and launch of the team’s identity, and even developed the team's highly-acclaimed customer service strategy, per the team.
Under Rootes leadership, the Texans have consistently been recognized as one of the most valuable professional sports franchises both in the NFL and globally.
The team says it will commence an immediate search for a new president. The search will include a diverse slate of candidates, including internal candidates from the business side. (Fan opinion already points to the New England Patriots as an immediate lead.)
In 2003, Rootes created Lone Star Sports and Entertainment (LSSE) and since that time has served as president. The group has put on collegiate events like the Texas Bowl and the Texas Kickoff annual college football games, as well as marquee soccer events like Copa América Centenario, Gold Cup, the Manchester Derby, and the International Champions Cup match featuring Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Most recently, Rootes and LSSE launched “Texans Fit,” which now has six fitness facility locations in the Houston area, per a release.
Rootes plans to serve on the Board of Directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and the United Way of Greater Houston. (He oversaw the Houston Texans Foundation, which has donated more than $35 million since its inception in 2002.)
Rootes moves on at a time when the team is in massive flux. Rock star public relations guru Amy Palcic departed. Superstar defensive end J.J. Watt is in the twilight of his career and has expressed frustration. Marquee quarterback DeShaun Watson, one of the hottest young stars in the NFL, has requested a trade (the team has not budged). The team hired an unproven name in new coach David Culley, a move that hardly has inspired or motivated the disgruntled Watson.
Much-maligned team executive Jack Easterby is largely blamed for team disharmony and is the target of national and local media. Rootes, however, has been highly regarded by fans, media, and colleagues and even penned a book on management and leadership: The Winning Game Plan.
“The past two decades have been an amazing blessing for me and my family and I have the McNairs to thank for that,” Rootes said in a statement. “It has been an honor to serve them in this capacity for as long as I have. I want to thank my teammates as we could not have had so many successes without their hard work and dedication to the team. I also want to thank the best fans in the National Football League, whom I call ‘Texans Nation.’ Your passionate support created a tremendous home field advantage, established the best tailgating experience in the NFL and sold out every home game. I will always be a proud Texan and I look forward to continuing to support our team.”
Team owner Cal McNair praised Rootes’ accomplishments while looking ahead. “We sincerely appreciate Jamey’s multiple contributions to the Texans franchise over his tenure and look forward to seeing him succeed in his new ventures,” McNair said in a statement. “We will now build upon this foundation and move forward with a bold and unwavering commitment to winning championships, creating memorable experiences for our fans, and doing great things for Houston.”