Tagliabue contract extended

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2004

NEW YORK Paul Tagliabue will remain as NFL commissioner through the end of the 2007 season.

Tagliabue has officially agreed to the new deal, announced last March, to extend his current contract that would have expired after next season, league officials said Monday.

Tagliabue will be 67 when the contract expires he would have retired at 65 had he stuck to his current deal. The new one is expected to pay him around $8 million a year, putting him on a level with NBA commissioner David Stern as the highest paid chief executives in professional sports.

The deal has been approved unanimously by the NFL's 32 owners.

It was first conceived during spring meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., last March in order to keep Tagliabue on through the upcoming television and labor negotiations.

''He's taken the league to a new level,'' Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney has said of Tagliabue. ''The television situation is phenomenal, the relationship with the players union is great. We're entering an important period and we want him to continue to lead us through it. It's obvious what we think of him.''

Tagliabue, who had been the NFL's chief outside lawyer, took over after Pete Rozelle stepped down in March of 1989.

At the time, he was the candidate of newer owners after a committee of the ''old-guard'' appointed by Rozelle recommended Jim Finks, the New Orleans Saints general manager.

But Tagliabue's ability to generate television revenues and get cities to build or renovate stadiums, has made him popular with everyone in the 15 years he's been commissioner, 21 of the 32 teams either have built new facilities or renovated older ones and the $17.6 billion television contract that expires after next season is the biggest in sports history.

''He's been the right man for the right time,'' said 87-year-old Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, an early Finks supporter who helped orchestrate the compromise that led to Tagliabue's selection. ''Pete was right for his time and it turns out that Paul has been right for his.''

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