NEW ORLEANS – Steve Bisciotti is wearing a plaid sports jacket, crisp checkered shirt and multicolored pocket square. Sunglasses hang from the jacket pocket, and the Super Bowl ring he earned 12 years earlier sits heavily and prominently on his right hand.
Bisciotti, the 52-year-old owner of the Baltimore Ravens, doesn’t like to talk about himself and is rarely seen around the team complex. Yet on Thursday, three days before one of the most important days of his life, he agreed to an interview with several reporters.
When the Ravens won their only Super Bowl in 2001, majority owner Art Modell proudly thrust the trophy into the air to celebrate. Bisciotti, who had purchased a small portion of the team a few months earlier, had little involvement in the formal proceedings.
He was more of a fan. He rented a tent, hired a band and arranged to take 250 friends with him to Tampa, Fla.
Bisciotti gained majority ownership in 2004 and has since been doing his best to get Baltimore back in the Super Bowl. The moment has arrived, and if the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Bisciotti will be on the podium as the confetti falls from the roof of the Superdome.
“The last time, I was kind of a fly on the wall for the whole experience. It was still Art’s team,” Bisciotti said. “It’s a lot different this time. (Senior vice president) Kevin Byrne wasn’t dragging me around making me do interviews 12 years ago.”
After the Ravens beat the New York Giants 34-7 in that Super Bowl long ago, Bisciotti figured it would only be a short while before the team added to its collection of championships.
“It was a great thrill,” he said, “but like Cal Ripken in his second year, you think, ‘Boy, this is pretty cool.’ Then here we are 12 years later before we’ve got a chance to do it again, and all we’ve done is gotten here. The last time, we won it. It’s certainly not going to be fulfilled if we don’t win it.”
Bisciotti has the ring from the previous Super Bowl, but he doesn’t have the satisfaction that comes with seeing your important decisions and investments bear fruit. He made millions by creating the largest privately held staffing firm in the United States, and the hands-on approach he displayed in that endeavor is evident in his handling of the Ravens.
“From an organizational standpoint, I’m very involved,” Bisciotti said. “I want my questions answered before they make their decision, but I would hope that when I do get involved in the important decisions that my participation actually lends itself to helping them make a better decision. I don’t just say, ‘It’s your job, do it.’ I can’t learn unless I understand their line of thinking.”
Bisciotti is aware of all that goes on with the team, but his deep tan suggests he does not micromanage. He is content to let General Manager Ozzie Newsome and Coach John Harbaugh tend to many of the details involved around running the team, with the understanding he’s always a call away.
Odds are when Bisciotti takes that call, he will be someplace warm with his wife, Renee.
“I’m at practice maybe once a week. We’re empty-nesters,” Bisciotti said. “We spend most of our fall and winter in Florida. If I can get up and do a Friday practice and meet with John and Ozzie and hear the game plan and where they think the team is mentally, that’s good for me. I can see my friends Friday night, I can take my boat up to the harbor and enjoy Saturday night with friends, meet my family in my suite for the game, and maybe head back to Florida again Monday for four days.”
It seems Bisciotti treats ownership of the Ravens as a sidelight to a casual lifestyle. That could not be further from the truth.
“He’s a very strong guy. He’s a very smart man,” Harbaugh said. “He’s involved in really almost everything we do. He’s the guy that establishes the vision for the organization, and I think Steve deserves a lot of credit. He’s not a guy that wants the limelight, he’s not a guy that wants to be out front banging his chest. He’s a humble man, just a great role model for all of us.”
Newsome was with Bisciotti from the beginning. The two have forged a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.
“He is a very humble person. He’s not afraid to challenge the issues but he’s a very good listener,” Newsome said. “I tell you what, he has some unbelievable insight when you have a chance to sit and talk with him. I’ve had a chance to watch him grow.
“I talked to a lot of the other GMs in our business, and they always say that Steve had it done the right way. He was able to come in to be a minority owner, to learn and watch and then become an owner. Some of these other guys aren’t having the opportunity so therefore they make a lot of mistakes. I don’t know if there is a more humble, honest, sometimes fiery, guy then Steve Bisciotti. He enjoys it, but he also believes one thing — that he hires people to do their job. Let them do their job.”