Goodell led voting wire-to-wire

Updated: August 9, 2006, 8:43 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

NORTHBROOK, Ill. -- In a league where it took 23 votes to elect Pete Rozelle in 1960 and a dozen ballots to tab Paul Tagliabue as his successor in 1989, Roger Goodell's ascension to the NFL's top management spot here Tuesday was remarkably brief, with owners requiring just five rounds to select him.

And, according to two NFL owners who supported Goodell's candidacy from the outset, and who publicly endorsed him before the balloting began Tuesday afternoon, his victory was a wire-to-wire rarity.

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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.

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Goodell led the voting, the owners confirmed, in all five rounds. On the fifth ballot, he finally received the commensurate number of votes needed to claim the commissioner's job, garnering 23 votes to eight for Gregg Levy, the league's outside counsel and the only other finalist remaining in the voting at that point.

With Goodell over the top -- according to league by-laws, a candidate needed the support of two-thirds of the membership, or 22 of 32 votes, to win -- a motion was made to elect him unanimously by acclamation. That motion, not surprisingly, carried unanimously.

Here's how the voting proceeded:

• On the first ballot, Goodell received 15 votes and Levy, who was said to have been very impressive in his presentation, got 13. The three other candidates -- Mayo Shattuck III, Robert L. Reynolds and Frederick Nance -- totaled just three votes among them. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, a member of the eight-man search committee that had narrowed the field, abstained. At that point, owners decided to drop the three finalists with the low vote totals. That came despite the fact that, on Monday, the league passed a resolution stipulating that all five finalists would remain in the balloting through at least three rounds. But clearly, on the first ballot, a message had been sent that owners did not intend to elect an "outsider" to run the league.

• Goodell led Levy 17-14 on both the second and third ballots. Once again, Davis abstained both times. Following the third ballot, owners said, there was a lively discussion of the merits of both men still vying for the job. That discussion apparently added some impetus to Goodell's candidacy.

• On the fourth ballot, Goodell received 21 votes, just one shy of the number necessary to push him over the top, and Levy received 10 votes. Davis abstained again.

• Finally, in the fifth round, with Davis again abstaining, Goodell received a 23-8 edge. At that point, the owners opted to elect him unanimously by acclamation. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney was then dispatched to Goodell's hotel room to deliver the news.

Several owners said that when Goodell entered the meeting room a few minutes later, greeted by a standing ovation as he was elevated from Tagliabue's first lieutenant to his successor, he was extremely emotional.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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