Wellington Timothy Mara (August 14, 1916 – October 25, 2005) was the co-owner of the NFL's New York Giants from 1959 until his death, and one of the most influential and iconic figures in the history of the National Football League. He was the younger son of Tim Mara, who founded the Giants in 1925. Wellington was a ball boy for that year.
In 1930, Tim Mara split his ownership interests between Wellington (then 14) and his older brother Jack. Soon after graduating from Fordham University, Wellington moved into the Giants' front office. He served as Assistant to the President and Treasurer, 1937; Secretary, 1938–1940; Vice-President and Secretary, 1945–1958; Vice-President, 1959–1965; President, 1966–1990; President and Co-Chief Executive Officer, 1991–2005. For his first 28 years in the organization, he handled the franchise's football decisions.
During the early 1960s, Wellington and his brother Jack, the owners of the NFL's largest market, agreed to share television revenue on a league-wide basis, dividing the amounts of money available in cities like New York with smaller market teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. That concept of revenue sharing allowed the NFL to grow and is still being used today. This is certainly Mara's lasting contribution to his game.
Under Mara's direction the New York Football Giants won six NFL titles (including two Super Bowl wins), nine conference championships (including six Eastern Conference championships in the days before the NFL-AFL merger and three NFC championships post-merger), and thirteen division championships. An eighth NFL title, fourth Super Bowl victory, fifth NFC championship (eleventh conference championship overall), and fifteenth division title have been captured since his passing under the leadership of his son, John, and co-owner Steve Tisch (who in turn is the son of Wellington's former co-owner from 1991–2005, Bob Tisch; Tisch also died in 2005, with his death coming three weeks after Mara's).
The Giants have also accumulated the third highest number of victories in National Football League history. Mara was also well liked by the Giants' players, and was known to stick by them even when they struggled with off-the-field problems. When Lawrence Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999 he credited Mara for supporting him even during the worst times of his drug addiction saying, "He probably cared more about me as a person than he really should have." Taylor has since lived a clean life style and credits Mara with helping him fight his addiction.
He had surgery in May 2005 to remove cancerouslymph nodes from his neck and under his armpit, but was initially given a good prognosis by his doctors who said the cancer had not metastasized, according to his son, John Mara, who is the Giants' co-chief executive officer.
The Wilson football used in NFL games prior to the AFL merger (1941–69) was nicknamed "THE DUKE" after Mara. For the 2006 season and beyond, a new version of "THE DUKE" has been used in NFL games.
Wellington Mara succumbed to lymphoma later that year at age 89. He was interred at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York, after his funeral at New York's Saint Patrick's Cathedral. He is survived by his wife, Ann, 11 children, and 42 grandchildren. His team honored him after his death by defeating the team he always viewed as the Giants' biggest (and oldest) rival, the Washington Redskins, 36–0 at Giants Stadium. The 80,000 fans in attendance gave his mention a standing ovation. Mara is considered one of the greatest owners in NFL history, establishing a legacy that sets the standard for current and future owners.
1966 - William Carpenter
1969 - Archibald MacLeish
1970 - Vince Lombardi1971 - Dr. Frank Boyden
1972 - Dr. Jerome H. Holland
1973 - (no award)
1974 - Bob Hope1975 - Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
1976 - James A. Van Fleet
1977 - Rev. Edmund P. Joyce
1978 - (no award)
1979 - John W. Galbreath
1980 - Fred Russell
1981 - Sonny Werblin1982 - Silver Anniversary (all honored) Jim Brown, Willie Davis, Jack Kemp, Ron Kramer, Jim Swink 1983 - Leon Hess & James Stewart1984 - David Nelson
1985 - Bill Flynn
1986 - John L. Toner
1987 - Ike Sewell
1988 - Joe Rodgers
1989 - Edward “Moose” Krause
1990 - Pete Rozelle1991 - Joe Paterno1992 - Wellington Mara1993 - Dick Kazmaier
1994 - Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
1995 - Tom Osborne1996 - J. Donald Monan, S.J
1997 - (no award)
1998 - Roy Kramer
1999 - (no award)
2000 - Arthur J. Decio
2001 - Dr. James Frank
2002 - George B. Young
2003 - Dr. Robert C. Khayat2004 - Robert F. Casciola
2005 - Alan Page2006 - Pat Tillman2007 - Rocky Bleier2008 - T. Boone Pickens