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Commissioner search committee appointed

NEW YORK (April 5, 2006) -- Owners Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh and Jerry Richardson of Carolina were appointed to head the eight-member committee that will search for the successor to commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The group was put together by Tagliabue to ensure that it includes diverse views among the owners. Rooney and Richardson are two of the owners Tagliabue trusts most. Others on the committee include Dallas' Jerry Jones and Oakland's Al Davis, both of whom have often clashed with the commissioner.

Robert Kraft of New England, Lamar Hunt of Kansas City, Mike McCaskey of Chicago and Woody Johnson of the New York Jets round out the group.

Tagliabue, who two weeks ago announced his intention to retire, reiterated last week that he thinks a successor can be in place by July. But he has said he would stay on as long as he has to. In any event, he will remain through 2008 as a consultant.

The committee's makeup is designed to avoid the kind of deadlock that occurred in 1989, when the original search committee was composed entirely of "old-guard" owners, including Rooney and Hunt. They recommended Jim Finks, then the New Orleans general manager, but were blocked by a group that included Jones, who had just purchased the Cowboys.

That led to a long deadlock that finally ended in Tagliabue's election when several owners, including Rooney, switched to Tagliabue. They subsequently became among his staunchest supporters while Jones and others often clashed with him.

This committee represents a broader spectrum than the last one, including insiders (Rooney, Richardson, Kraft and Hunt) and outsiders (Davis and Jones).

It also includes different perspectives on the revenue-sharing debate that delayed approval of the extension to the labor contract, finally approved at the last possible minute last month.

Jones and Kraft, for example, were leaders of the high-revenue faction opposing revenue sharing; Richardson and Rooney were in the middle and the Jets and Chiefs in the bottom third, although both could move up with a new stadium (New York) and improvements to the current one (Kansas City) now in the works.

Tagliabue said last week that the first task of the committee would be to hire a search firm that would interview all 32 owners to identify what they want in a new commissioner.

The next regularly scheduled league meeting will take place on May 23-24 in Denver.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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