Owners Set to Begin Commissioner-Selection Meeting
NORTHBROOK, Ill.--The NFL's team owners were gathering here today, preparing to begin a set of meetings this afternoon at which they're pledging to select a new commissioner.
The five finalists for the job are scheduled to address the owners during a meeting that is to begin around 2 p.m. Eastern time today. The owners also are to have a question-and-answer session with each candidate, and are vowing to take a vote Tuesday or Wednesday.
Roger Goodell, the NFL's chief operating officer, remains the strong favorite to succeed retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue. It takes at least 22 votes among the 32 teams to elect a commissioner.
An eight-owner search committee appointed by Tagliabue put Goodell among a group of finalists that also includes Washington attorney Gregg Levy, the league's chief outside counsel; Cleveland attorney Frederick Nance; Robert Reynolds, the vice chairman and COO of Fidelity Investments; and Mayo Shattuck III, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Energy in Baltimore.
The history of commissioner searches in the NFL is that they are unpredictable and volatile. Tagliabue was a little-known labor attorney from D.C. when the owners selected him in 1989 to succeed Pete Rozelle. Many owners were upset at Rozelle, feeling that he'd stacked the search committee with members of the league's old guard. They rejected the choice of the committee, New Orleans Saints General Manager Jim Finks, at the end of a seven-month stalemate.
Tagliabue has done everything that he could this time to avoid a repeat of that contentiousness. He's eager to leave office and doesn't want to be forced to stay longer, as he has agreed to do if the owners can't settle on a successor. Tagliabue has attempted to involve all of the owners in the search process, and the search committee won't recommend a specific candidate at this meeting.
Many people around the league are convinced that Goodell has more than enough support entering this meeting to be elected before the owners leave town. But if any snags are encountered in Goodell being elected, it's probable that this meeting would end without a commissioner being chosen. None of the other four candidates appears to have sufficient support entering this meeting to be elected if, for some reason, a problem arises with Goodell's ascension to the league's top job.
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