I believe we're all artists, that business is art.
Irsay was 12 years old when his Father, Robert Irsay, purchased the Baltimore Colts. After graduating from SMU in 1982 he joined the Colts' professional staff. He was named Vice President and General Manager in 1984, one month after the Colts relocated from Baltimore, to Indianapolis. After his Father suffered a stroke in 1995, Jim assumed day-to-day management with the role of Senior Executive Vice President, General Manager and Chief Operating Officer in April 1996. When his Father died in 1997 Jim engaged in a legal battle with his stepmother over ownership of the team, but later became the youngest NFL team owner at that time at 37.
Irsay was born in Lincolnwood, Illinois, the son of Harriet (née Pogorzelski) and Chicago businessman Robert Irsay. His Father was from a Hungarian Jewish family and his mother was the daughter of Polish Catholic immigrants. Irsay was raised Catholic, and did not know about his father's Jewish heritage until he was fourteen. Jim's brother, Thomas, was born with a mental disability and died in 1999, and his sister, Roberta, died in a car accident in 1971. Irsay attended high school at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois a suburb just north of Chicago, Illinois and at Mercersburg Academy '78, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. After high school, he attended, and graduated from, Southern Methodist University in 1982 with a degree in broadcast journalism. Irsay played linebacker for the SMU Mustangs football team as a walk-on, but an ankle injury ended his playing career.
Outside of football, Irsay has made notable Investments in music and memorabilia. In 2001 Irsay purchased the original manuscript of On the Road, or "the scroll": a continuous, one hundred twenty-foot scroll of tracing paper sheets that Jack Kerouac cut to size and taped together, for $2.43 million. Irsay is a big fan of British rock band The Who. Irsay also has purchased guitars originally owned by Elvis Presley, George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Prince as well as a Ludwig drum set belonging to Ringo Starr.
Irsay's most notable contributions to NFL operations have come through petitioning the commissioner to institute rule changes and penalties. After a playoff loss to the New England Patriots in 2003 in which Peyton Manning threw four interceptions, Irsay petitioned the NFL Competition Committee, a committee that included Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian to make rules on pass interference stricter. Likewise Irsay and Bill Polian advocated rule changes that would lower the threshold for what constitutes a "roughing the passer" penalty. Such advocacy was considered controversial given Polian's role on the committee and the perception that the rules would disproportionately favor the Indianapolis Colts in relation to the league's other member clubs. Similarly in 2015, after losing to the New England Patriots in the playoffs in consecutive years, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson initiated a complaint to the NFL about an alleged equipment violation.
But Irsay has also lobbied to protect the image of the NFL. In 2009 Irsay was vocal about preventing a group that included talk-show host Rush Limbaugh from purchasing the St. Louis Rams. "I, myself, couldn't even consider voting for him," Irsay said at an NFL owners meeting. "When there are comments that have been made that are inappropriate, incendiary and insensitive... our words do damage, and it's something we don't need." Irsay has made political contributions to John Edwards and Harry Reid.
Irsay married Meg Coyle in 1980, and the couple have three daughters, Carlie, Casey and Kalen. Despite being separated since 2003, Meg filed for divorce on November 21, 2013.
Irsay's daughter, Carlie, took over the day-to-day operations of the Colts while he was in rehab. On September 2, 2014, shortly after pleading guilty to OWI and being sentenced to one year of probation, Irsay was suspended by the NFL for six games and fined $500,000.