Paul Tagliabue National Football League

"And whatever we accomplished, it’s not about Paul Tagliabue; it’s about the whole team of people. And I think for me having a gold jacket would be tremendous recognition of the hundreds of employees who did a phenomenal job.”

During Paul Tagliabue’s 17-year reign as Commissioner of the National Football League, pro football grew to unparalleled heights.

Expansion, labor peace, new stadiums, international operations, unprecedented television coverage and revenues, internet and new technology development are just some of the successes accomplished during his tenure. Today, the NFL is not only the template for success among sports leagues, it is the standard by which all other leagues aspire.

Tagliabue was elected to succeed Pete Rozelle on Oct. 26, 1989 to become the seventh chief executive of the NFL. A few months later, the new commissioner set the tone for his administration. At the March 1990 Owners Meetings, Tagliabue and Broadcast Committee Chairman Art Modell announced a new, four-year TV deal worth $3.6 billion, which at that time was the largest in television history. At that same meeting, Tagliabue announced the formation of a Committee on Expansion and Realignment. The committee eventually recommended, and the clubs approved, the addition of two teams (the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers) that began play in the 1995 season.

In 1991, Tagliabue and the club owners, recognizing the tremendous potential for pro football on an international basis, launched the World League of American Football. The WLAF (later known as NFL Europe) was the first sports league to operate on a weekly basis on two continents.

Labor peace is another hallmark of Tagliabue’s stewardship. In 1993, the NFL and NFL Players Association officially signed a seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, which guaranteed more than $1 billion in pension, health, and post-career benefits for current and retired players - the most extensive benefit plan in pro sports. It was the first CBA since 1987 and the first of two successive long-term labor agreements with the players during Tagliabue’s tenure.

Under Tagliabue, the NFL also addressed many other key priorities. During the Tagliabue era, the league supported the construction of some 20 new stadiums; created a league-wide Internet network and the subscriber-based NFL TV Network; and secured the largest television contracts in entertainment history, totaling some $25 billion.

Before becoming the league’s CEO, Tagliabue represented the NFL as an attorney at Covington & Burling, a Washington, D.C., law firm.