For NFL owners, finding a successor to Pete Rozelle is like a boxing fan trying to determine who will succeed Mike Tyson as heavyweight champion. There just don’t seem to be any leading candidates.
“We have to turn over every stone,” said Edward DeBartolo Jr., owner of the San Francisco 49ers, after Rozelle’s shocking announcement Wednesday that he is retiring three years before his contract expires. (Story, Part III, Page 1.)
“This guy isn’t coming into any day at the beach. This man will be succeeding a legend.”
The first and most obvious name to surface was Jack Kemp, the former NFL quarterback, congressman and now U.S. secretary of housing.
But there are others who might fit the description set forth by Tex Schramm, president of the Dallas Cowboys, and seconded by other owners: a man in his 40s or early 50s, knowledgeable about the NFL and communications.
--Paul Tagliabue, a former Georgetown basketball player who is an attorney with a prestigious Washington law firm. Tagliabue has represented the NFL before Congress and has been deeply involved in two major lawsuits--the antitrust suit filed against the league by the United States Football League and the current antitrust suit filed by the players union at the end of the 1987 strike.
--Neal Pilson, president of CBS Sports, who has worked closely with the league. Several owners were impressed with Pilson’s testimony during the USFL trial.
--Joe Bailey, Dallas’ vice president for administration. Bailey is a former North Carolina quarterback who is considered to have Schramm’s knowledge of football without his abrasiveness, which has antagonized some owners toward the Cowboys’ president.
Other, more speculative candidates, might include former Dallas running back Calvin Hill, a Yale graduate and member of the Baltimore Orioles’ Board of Directors; Bob Wallace, general counsel to the Phoenix Cardinals and a former Yale running back, and Bill Walsh, who stepped down as San Francisco coach after winning his third Super Bowl in January.
Hill and Wallace are black; earlier this week, Rozelle strongly urged the owners to hire more minority employees.
When Kemp was asked about the job today in Chicago, he said, “I love what I’m doing.”
He said he is committed to the Bush Administration.
Schramm said he wasn’t interested. But he hedged when asked if he might be interested in taking the job on an interim basis.
“I’m older than Pete,” the 68-year-old Schramm said of the 63-year-old Rozelle. “But the league is No. 1 with me. If there is anything I could do to help, I would.”