PHOENIX — George McCaskey didn’t want to be a lawyer.
But when he graduated from Arizona State with
a broadcast-journalism degree, his grandfather George Halas and father made him go to law school anyway.
“They thought it’d be helpful to have a lawyer in the family,” he said, “and they were running out of candidates.”
McCaskey, who received his ASU law degree in 1981, returned to his alma mater Wednesday to speak to law students. The Bears’ chairman never did use his degree but said he’s thankful that he got one.
“It improves your critical thinking, your analytical thinking,” he said.
McCaskey will need plenty of both this year. General manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox are entering their third season and have nine wins to show for it. They are under pressure to win.
McCaskey, who called the new season-ticket hike a function of Soldier Field’s small capacity, wants improvement after a 3-13 season.
He wouldn’t set a firm definition, record or otherwise on what he will use as a standard.
“We want to continue to see progress, continue to see the building blocks,” he said. “But there isn’t any particular threshold.”
McCaskey and his family will be the ones making the decisions for the foreseeable future. At the NFL owners meetings this week, the league approved the sale of a small percentage of the team’s ownership stake from one of Mugs Halas’ children back to the team.
“The big thing is that the majority ownership is going to remain in the family,” McCaskey said. “This was a small transaction.
“As we’ve said many times, we have every intention of continuing to own the Bears.”
The family has studied the smartest way to do so, meeting with successful family businesses. In a classic family business, they learned the greatest challenge comes in the “cousins” generation. It becomes harder to hold the business together with each generation.
McCaskey said the team hasn’t hired from its youngest group of family members but is eager to.
“We want to meet that challenge by making sure that family members understand Halas’ legacy and are as interested as we are in continuing that legacy,” McCaskey said. “We’ve been given every indication that it is resoundingly the case.”
The Bears have taken steps to avoid the fate of the Titans, who have been fined by the league for not identifying a sole leader since founder Bud Adams died in 2013.
Asked how, McCaskey was vague.
“She has a plan,” he said.
She, of course, is his mother, 94-year-old Virginia McCaskey, who, notoriously, was “pissed off” with the team’s results before firing general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
“She sees the progress,” McCaskey said, “but, like any fan, she wants results.”
McCaskey joked that he hopes Pace is criticized for not chasing free agents every offseason. The team wants to build through the draft, and he’s confident in Pace and Fox to do so.
“One of the things I take from the Cubs example: You have to have a plan, you have to have the right people, you have to give those people the freedom to execute that plan,” said McCaskey, who admired the way Tom Ricketts explained their rebuild to fans. “And you have to stick with that plan.”
One way or another, the 2017 season will have all the drama of a television show — just not the HBO documentary “Hard Knocks,” if McCaskey has his way.
“We’re looking forward to seeing which team other than us is profiled this year,” McCaskey said.
Follow me on Twitter@patrickfinley.