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Commissioner search to begin in earnest

DENVER (May 23, 2006) -- Two months after commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced his retirement, NFL owners are finally buckling down to the task of finding a replacement.

During two days of meetings, the owners finished up interviews with a search firm hired to determine what they want in the next commissioner. Now it's up to a committee of eight owners headed by Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh and Jerry Richardson of Carolina to come up with a list of from three to five candidates. The 32 owners will choose Tagliabue's successor from those finalists.

Tagliabue, who announced his retirement in March and had originally set a target date of July to step down, expects to stay on after that. The new target date is Aug. 18.

Rooney said he expects to have a list whittled down in about two months or sooner and the owners hope to meet in July in an attempt to make further progress.

"We're going to try to get things done as quickly as possible," Rooney said.

In 1989, it took seven months to choose Tagliabue to replace Pete Rozelle, including a three-month deadlock after the first vote was taken. That came after a committee made up primarily of "old guard" owners recommended the late Jim Finks, then the New Orleans general manager, and was thwarted by a group of newer owners who resented having a decision made for them by a group of insiders.

This committee includes a broader spectrum of owners, including Dallas' Jerry Jones and Oakland's Al Davis, both of whom have had numerous differences with the league office.

Asked if he thought there would be the kind of deadlock this time that there was the last time, Tagliabue replied: "I think we are going about this a lot more efficiently."

The leading candidates for Tagliabue's job, which must be approved by 22 of the 32 teams, continue to be Roger Goodell, the NFL's chief operating officer; Atlanta general manager Rich McKay and Baltimore president Dick Cass. One outside name that has cropped up recently has been Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communication Commission and the son of Colin Powell, the former secretary of state.

Also on the list are league officials Jeff Pash, Eric Grubman and Joe Browne, as well as several club officials and an unknown number of potential candidates from outside the NFL.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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