Ravens hire Cass as team president

OWINGS MILLS – Dick Cass' extensive legal background in corporate board rooms and high-profile NFL issues led Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to hire him as team president.

A Washington attorney who chaired Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering's business transactions section, Cass helped broker Bisciotti's purchase of the Ravens from Art Modell.

Cass, 58, was officially named Tuesday as the replacement for outgoing team president David Modell, who will remain with the team for two years as a consultant. Cass has actually been working for the Ravens behind the scenes for months, including the Terrell Owens special-master hearing and attending league meetings with the team's owners.

"I love the sports business," said Cass, who has resigned his law partnership. "I loved being involved in football. The part of the practice I always enjoyed the most was doing sports work, particularly football work. I really just leaped at the opportunity."

This the first major move made by Bisciotti since finalizing a $600 million sale from Art Modell last week, although Bisciotti had long planned on bringing Cass into the team's front office. Cass said he has stayed in touch with David Modell throughout the transition.

Cass has represented a diverse client base that includes Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the NFL office, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors, the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the Walt Disney Company.

Cass helped Jones acquire the Cowboys and Texas Stadium as well as later advising the team on sponsorship contracts, litigation against the NFL, the collective bargaining agreement, salary cap and the league's substance-abuse policies.

"Dick has had involvement with every aspect of an NFL team, outside of coaching and scouting," Bisciotti said in a statement. "His legal expertise, his working knowledge of the business, his relationships at the league office and the respect he has already earned around the league will be a significant asset for the franchise."

With the Ravens, Cass will oversee the business side of the team and serve as Bisciotti's chief counsel. 

Cass won't negotiate player contracts or weigh in heavily on personnel matters, which means the team's separation of coaching, personnel and business staffs will remain intact. He will negotiate other types of contracts involving the team, though.

"My principal responsibility will be on the business side," Cass said. "I'll be involved in the football side only in so far as helping to set budgets. I'll be sitting in on meetings and personnel meetings, but I'm not going to have any meaningful input in that regard."

When asked what it's like to work for Bisciotti, Cass said: "He's a very easy guy to work with. He's incredibly passionate about the game and he's fun to work with. He will talk your head off about Maryland Terrapins basketball, but I'm a Terps fan, too, so that's not too bad."

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Princeton, where he played rugby, Cass has a degree from Yale Law School. Born in Washington and a former student body president and captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams at Mercersburg Academy (Pa.), Cass moved all over the country every few years. His father was in the Coast Guard.

"We're thrilled," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Dick has a lot of experience as to how this league works. His background is going to lend himself, as we go forward in any number of instances as we've already found out. Having a legal opinion on board at any given time is going to be very important."

The NFL enlisted Cass to advise them on the collective bargaining agreement in 1992 and 1993. He also represented the estate of Jack Kent Cooke in the sale of the Washington Redskins to Daniel Snyder in 1999.

"Dick is uniquely qualified for this position," Jones said in a statement. "He is extremely bright and has a thorough knowledge of the daily operation of a team and the league office. He and Steve will make a dynamic leadership tandem in Baltimore that will ultimately benefit the NFL.

"I have worked closely with Dick on a variety of NFL matters for the past 15 years and have the utmost respect for his ability to see the big picture and his skills in managing people."

Initially, Cass said he wants to expand the bathrooms and amount of televisions in the upper deck of M&T Bank Stadium. Having heard from a multitude of impassioned fantasy football owners, the team plans to make more data available about players' performances from around the league during home games.

Having done legal work for professional sports teams for years, Cass is now a front-office leader with an NFL team.

"It was a great opportunity for me," Cass said. "It took me about two seconds to respond to Steve's question, ‘Would I be interested?' It was an easy decision."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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