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Tagliabue to retrie in July


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NEW YORK … (AP) … Paul Tagliabue is retiring as NFL

commissioner in July after more than 16 years on the job.

 

The 65-year-old commissioner has led the league since

1989, when he succeeded Pete Rozelle, and agreed last March

to stay to complete the television and labor deals.

 

He finally got that done 12 days ago, finishing the most

arduous labor negotiations since the league and union agreed

on a free agency-salary cap deal in 1992.

 

??I believe that now is a positive time to make the

transition to a new commissioner,'' Tagliabue said in a

statement.

 

Roger Goodell, the NFL's chief operating officer, and

Atlanta general manager Rich McKay are the two leading

candidates to succeed Tagliabue. Baltimore Ravens president

Dick Cass is considered a dark horse.

 

Tagliabue has said he wants to avoid the kind of

seven-month deadlock that occurred between him and the late

Jim Fink after Rozelle stepped down in March 1989. Owners

will begin the search for a new commissioner at their

meetings next week in Orlando, Fla.

 

Tagliabue called Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, the NFL's senior

owner, early Monday to tell him of the decision.

 

The announcement was made officially in an e-mail to the

other owners at noon EST.

 

??We have a collective bargaining extension in place,

long-term television contracts, and have undertaken many

other strong elements in league and club operations,''

Tagliabue said. ??I am honored to have been commissioner

since late 1989 and to have been heavily involved with the

league, its owners, clubs, coaches, players, fans and media

since 1969.''

 

Tagliabue will stay on with the NFL as a senior executive

and a consultant through 2008, part of the contract extension

he signed last July.

 

Tagliabue's term will be remembered most for labor peace

following strikes in 1982 and 1987. His close relationship

with Gene Upshaw, the union's executive director, finally led

to a long-term agreement after five years without a contract.

 

But the bargaining was hard this time, with three straight

deadline extensions needed. The agreement avoided the

prospect of entering free agency this year with the

possibility of an uncapped year in 2007.

 

It came at the expense of revenue sharing among the

owners, an issue that had divided high-revenue and

small-revenue teams and contributed to the deadlock. He did

it with what has been considered his greatest skill as

commissioner, patching together a coalition of nine teams

with differing viewpoints to reach a compromise considered

satisfactory by all but two teams.

 

He also oversaw a massive stadium building program. More

than two-thirds of the NFL's 32 teams are either playing in

or building stadiums that didn't exist when he took over as

commissioner in 1989.

 

Before becoming commissioner, Tagliabue was a league

lawyer who spent much of that time as the NFL's

representative and unofficial lobbyist in Washington.

 

??He has been a tremendous asset to our league and the

direction we have taken,'' said New Orleans owner Tom Benson.

 

??We have experienced very positive growth in the area of

revenue sharing and broadcast contracts, we have secured

long-term labor peace and have also even encountered some of

the worst of times following 9/11, but through it all Paul

has been a leader, a friend and a voice that many others

within our league and other leagues have followed.''

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