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NFL owners elect Goodell as new commissioner

NORTHBROOK, Ill. -- The knock on Roger Goodell's hotel room
door came almost three hours to the minute after NFL owners began
voting for a new commissioner.

When he opened it, there stood the Steelers' Dan Rooney. He
didn't have to say a word.

For all the terrific accomplishments of the Tagliabue Era, for the nonpareil prosperity he has engendered in what has grown into a $6 billion-a-year industry, the NFL is not without storm clouds on the horizon. And those are storm clouds that, frankly, could make Goodell's honeymoon a brief one.

To read more of Len Pasquarelli's analysis of Roger Goodell's election as commissioner and the issues he now faces as commissioner, click here.

"When I saw Dan smiling, I knew it wasn't bad news," Goodell
said Tuesday.

And right then, in a seamless transition that followed a swift,
unanimous selection, the symbol of the NFL's storied history
embraced the league's future.

Favored for months to succeed Paul Tagliabue, the 47-year-old
Goodell said he expects to begin serving a five-year term before
the regular season starts Sept. 7.

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli reports that, on the fifth ballot, the last remaining contender was Gregg Levy, who serves as the league's outside counsel.

Goodell, who never stopped rising through the ranks during his
lifelong service to the NFL, was chosen on the fifth ballot,
beating four other contenders in a vote that took only three hours.

He becomes just the fourth commissioner since World War II,
having started his NFL career as a public relations intern a
quarter-century ago and having served as Tagliabue's
second-in-command for most of the last decade.

"We've had the two greatest sports commissioners in the history
of professional sports, Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle, and I was
fortunate to work for both of them," said Goodell, who shook every
owners' hand afterward. "I look forward to the challenge and thank
them again for their confidence."

Goodell remained the favorite even through a four-month search
conducted by a committee headed by Rooney and Carolina's Jerry
Richardson. There was no question that he was the choice of the
league's most important owners all along, but none declared any
allegiance until the finale.

Roger Goodell, named the NFL's commissioner on Tuesday, has a long history with the league. To read how he went from NFL intern to one of the most powerful men in sports, click here.

"I said from the beginning that we were going to look for the
man to lead us," Rooney said he told the owners during the voting
Wednesday afternoon. "I said that when we finished, I had no doubt
that that was Roger Goodell."

New England's Robert Kraft, one of the most influential of the
newest owners, said: "Roger got his MBA from Pete Rozelle and Paul
Tagliabue. That's not a bad education."

The son of former U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell of New York, Goodell
had been Tagliabue's top assistant on expansion and stadium
construction. He also was the contact man with union head Gene
Upshaw during the recent labor talks. In 2000, he became the NFL's
chief operating officer.

League revenues have skyrocketed during the 17 years under
Tagliabue, who said he would leave his post after brokering new
television and labor deals. The NFL will collect about $10 billion
in TV rights fees during the next six years, and enjoys labor peace
with the players' association under an agreement completed in
March.

The owners believed Goodell would carry on in that tradition.

"The continuity was very important to me," said John Mara of
the New York Giants, whose family, along with the Rooneys,
represent the NFL's founding generation. "Roger has an awareness
of the history and the tradition that the league represents."

Goodell beat four other finalists: lawyers Levy and
Frederick Nance; Fidelity Investments vice chairman Robert
Reynolds; and Constellation Energy chairman Mayo Shattuck III.

Goodell's election was much less complicated than Tagliabue's in
1989, when it took owners seven months to select a successor to
Rozelle. Originally, the top choice appeared to be Saints president
Jim Finks, who was recommended by an advisory committee. But many
of the newer owners would not back Finks, favored by most
old-liners.

It took 12 ballots -- six of them on Oct. 26, 1989 -- to finally
elect Tagliabue. Goodell's selection was over in less time than it
takes for a long, leisurely lunch.

"The process was good in that it got everyone looking ahead and
not just at the circumstances in their own city," Tagliabue said.

Tagliabue simply introduced Goodell as the new commissioner,
then stepped aside as he took the podium.

"I spent my life following my passion," Goodell said. "The
game of football is the most important thing. You can never forget
that."

Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said, "Those of us who
have been around a long time were rooting for someone from inside
the (NFL) family.

"He's always been aggressive and always had a presence about
him. He's obviously bright. He couldn't be more qualified for this
job."

Goodell, born in Jamestown, N.Y., is married and has twin
daughters.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.