Posted: Tuesday August 8, 2006 6:56PM; Updated: Wednesday August 9, 2006 2:08AM
NFL Commissioners, Presidents
Note: Treasurer Austin Gunsel served as president in the office of the commissioner following the death of Bert Bell (Oct. 11, 1959) until the election of Pete Rozelle (Jan. 26, 1960).
"It's a great day for the NFL," said a close observer of league affairs, Mark Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp. "Roger looks at the league not as a sports business, but as a great American business, like McDonald's. He's very good at looking at other vistas, other opportunities. You will see him be very focused on innovations and technology. Under Roger I think the league will continue to be the envy of every sports business on the planet."
When Goodell made his case to the ownership on Monday, he stressed that he didn't want to be what he called a "status-quo commissioner,'' but that he wanted to work with the 32 teams to move the league forward. "My theme was that this wasn't time for the status quo,'' he said. "I said we needed to keep innovating.''
Goodell will have a very short honeymoon in the job he has wanted badly but never campaigned publicly for. "If he's commissioner for 20 years,'' said one longtime team general manager, "his toughest three years will be the first three. We've got significant disagreements inside the league with how we share revenue and how big a gap there is between the top- and bottom-earning teams.''
Many in the league believe the new CBA will be dissolved in 2009, the first year either side can opt out of the agreement, because it won't address the financial shortfalls of the low-revenue teams. Goodell will have to address the problems of the teams lower on the financial totem pole by attempting to ratchet up the revenue-sharing level from rich to not-so-rich from sources such as new media and stadiums.
His election came on the second day of a scheduled three-day meeting. "I was surprised,''' said Mara. "I packed to stay through Wednesday.'' The fact that there were several limousines waiting outside the hotel ready to take owners to O'Hare International Airport seemed to be a sign the voting process might be short, and relatively speaking, it was.
Each candidate gave a 45-minute presentation to the full group on Monday. On Tuesday the 32 owners began meeting, in groups of eight, with each candidate at 8 a.m. The five candidates spent one hour apiece, rotating from one group of eight to the next. Just after 2 p.m. the owners gathered in a hotel ballroom to begin the voting process. The five candidates, by league dictum, remained on the rolls for at least the first three secret ballots, with Tagliabue and the eight-man commissioner search committee then permitted to drop at least one candidate with the lowest vote total.
Entering the vote, it was thought that if there would be a roadblock to Goodell's election, it would be the owners who feel disaffected by the last round of collective bargaining with the players. Small-market owners such as Cincinnati's Mike Brown, Buffalo's Ralph Wilson and Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver feel the league did too little to bridge the growing revenue gap between big-earning teams like Washington and lower-revenue teams like Cincinnati and Buffalo.
Tagliabue was elected in 1989, the process took seven months because the late Jim Finks entered the process as the favorite to succeed Pete Rozelle. But after 12 ballots, including six in the final meeting of the process at a Cleveland hotel, Tagliabue got the required two thirds of the vote.
But here, in another Midwestern city, the process was infinitely easier. The NFL hopes Goodell can have the staying power and success of his two predecessors. Rozelle served for 29 years and brought the NFL into the modern era of sports. Tagliabue oversaw the commitment of 21 new stadiums and the rise in TV money from a $4 billion contract to a $24 billion deal.