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Paul Tagliabue (2001-2005)

Paul John Tagliabue (born November 24, 1940) is a former Commissioner of the National Football League. He took the position in 1989 and was succeeded by Roger Goodell, who was elected to the position on August 8, 2006. Tagliabue's retirement took effect on September 1, 2006. He had previously served as a lawyer for the NFL.

Tagliabue was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, the third of four sons born to Charles and May Tagliabue. He received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Georgetown University and was captain of the 1961-1962 team. He graduated in 1962 as president of his senior class, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and a Dean's List graduate.

Tagliabue graduated from New York University School of Law in 1965. He has received honorary degrees from Colgate University and Northeastern University.

National Football League

After serving as a lawyer for the NFL, Tagliabue was selected by NFL owners to succeed Pete Rozelle as Commissioner of the NFL in 1989.

Expansion of the league

During his tenure as commissioner, the NFL expanded from 28 teams to 32. New franchises were announced in 1993 to begin play in 1995 in Charlotte and Jacksonville. Subsequent moves by other teams resulted in a 31st team being added at Cleveland in 1999; this team, though technically an expansion team, inherited the name, colors, and history (including all team and individual records) from the Cleveland Browns, who had relocated to Baltimore in 1996 as the Baltimore Ravens. The 32nd franchise was the Houston Texans, added in 2002.

Team movements

In 1995, Los Angeles lost both its franchises, as the Rams relocated to St. Louis, and the Raiders returned to Oakland. In 1996, the Browns moved to Baltimore, under a new name, as indicated above. In 1997, the Houston Oilers relocated to Tennessee, for one year in Memphis and another year using Vanderbilt as their home field. (The team changed its name from the Oilers to the Titans upon moving to their permanent stadium in Nashville.)

Response to September 11 attacks

Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Tagliabue announced that the games scheduled for the upcoming weekend were canceled. Although Tagliabue said the NFL was acutely aware of Commissioner Pete Rozelle's well-publicized regret not to cancel the games on the weekend following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, he primarily cited the magnitude of the events and security concerns as the reason to cancel the games.

It was the first time the league canceled an entire week's slate of games since the 1987 NFL strike.

A week later, it was announced that the postponed games would be added to the end of the regular season, pushing the Super Bowl into February for the first time.


Proponents of the claim of Tagliabue's greatness point to such accomplishments as:

  • He took a stand against the State of Arizona for refusing to establish a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., like other states had done. In 1993, the Super Bowl was to be held for the first time in Arizona, but after an election, Arizona rejected establishment of a Martin Luther King state holiday. Subsequently, Tagliabue moved the Super Bowl to Pasadena.[4]
  • Forcefully and successfully promoting the return of the Saints to New Orleans after the disruption of their 2005 season in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Tagliabue is credited with convincing Saints owner Tom Benson to abandon any effort to move the team to San Antonio and with making the Saints' return to Louisiana a league priority.


1992 Eagle Award from the United States Sports Academy. The Eagle Award is the Academy's highest international honor and was awarded to Tagliabue for his significant contributions to international sport.

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