Former Georgetown Hoyas basketball player and Georgetown University alumnus Paul Tagliabue (C’62) has been enshrined Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mr. Tagliabue has been very generous to Georgetown over the years, and has served Georgetown in various capacities including the GU Board of Directors.
Mr. Tagliabue previously was commissioner of the National Football League from 1989 until 2006, and on the Georgetown University Board of Directors from 2006 to 2018. He recently served as Vice Chair of Georgetown University’s Board of Directors and served as Chair from 2009 to 2015.
Paul Tagliabue is also a member of the Georgetown Athletics Hall of Fame as “basketball captain, class president and Rhodes Scholarship finalist.”
From one 3️⃣3️⃣ to another, congratulations to Paul Tagliabue, who will be enshrined in the @ProFootballHOF tonight! Well deserved and way to make the Georgetown Basketball Family proud #HOYASAXA #PFHOF20— Patrick Ewing (@CoachEwing33) August 7, 2021
“It’s a dream come true. I’ll tell you that,” Tagliabue said in his 9-minute, 9-second speech. “Thank you all very, very much. I’m honored to enter the Hall of Fame in this Centennial Class. It spans pro football history.” Tagliabue presided over a period of tremendous growth for the league following the Pete Rozelle era. But he also was dogged by criticisms of his role in the way the league addressed the concussion issue, infamously downplaying head injuries in 1994. Tagliabue spent much of his speech talking about how he achieved unprecedented labor peace with the players.
“In examining what makes the NFL so compelling, I always return to the players who make the game what it is,” Tagliabue said. “The athletes who thrive in the competitive enviornment of the National Football League tend to be intensly motivated individuals with clear values and high morals. Our players in the Hall of Fame epitomize these qualities. They understand work ethic, team work, accountability, and they are committed to do their best on and off the field. We need to respect the players for having these qualities and for what they represent as leaders in sports and in society. The perspectives of the players should be considered when they speak out on issues important to the league and to their communities.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial class of 2020 is set, and among the 15 honorees selected was former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who helped lead the league to new heights during his tenure from 1989-2006. Under Tagliabue’s 17-year leadership, the NFL expanded to 32 teams, 20 new stadiums broke ground, and the league pushed toward a global brand. Most notably, he was a main architect behind the NFL becoming the country’s most popular sport, securing the largest contracts in entertainment history — totaling $25 billion.
Pro Football Hall of Fame: Paul Tagliabue, Donnie Shell help round out centennial class https://t.co/lFHvVgDu72— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) January 15, 2020
The 80-year-old former NFL Commissioner is only two months from his formal induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, so there is much on his mind as he reflects on his years running the NFL. One of those things, he told USA Today this week, is the growing influence of legalized gambling on pro football and his fear, long held by his predecessors in the commissioner’s chair, that the game may be tempting fate with its recent business partnerships with casinos and the online fantasy betting websites DraftKings and FanDuel.
Tagliabue’s concerns are not based on some irrational fear or a refusal to grow with the times now that gambling has been legalized in roughly half the states in the country. Rather, it is born from personal experience and the sad memory of a 1961 basketball game he played in between Georgetown and NYU.
“We beat the hell out of NYU,’’ Tagliabue told USA today this week. “It was the biggest victory in my three years of basketball at Georgetown. Turns out guys at NYU were taking money to shave points….I still worry about some young guy and someone says to him, ‘Take the money.’”
He was instrumental in the formation of such entities as NFL Network and set a tone to keep the league forward-thinking politically. He used his speech Saturday to encourage people to listen to the individuals who make the game compelling — the players.
“The perspectives of the players should be considered when they speak out on issues important to the league and to their communities,” Tagliabue said. “As (Edgerrin James) put it, don’t speak out until you learn. Don’t act before you know. The voices of players need to be heard. They need to be debated. And they need to be criticized if their views are not well grounded…
“But listen to the players, because they have a lot to teach all of us. “
Spock, the former NFL executive, said Tagliabue gets a bad rap, as the science was in its infant stages. “You can say a lot of things about Paul, but he is a human being,” Spock said. “This is not the kind of thing he would try and cover up. I just don’t believe it. And I didn’t see it. So I think a lot of it’s unfair.” Tagliabue in the interview echoed Spock in arguing the science was uncertain on the issue at the time.
And he wanted to set the record straight on a few things. His famous 1994 quote about pack journalism, he said was offered in defense of Upshaw, who had at the time come under attack for allegedly not caring about player health. And two, he wants to clear the air on Pellman, the controversial New York Jets rheumatologist who chaired the MTBI committee, which was disbanded in 2010 and had its work refuted by a succeeding committee — appointed by Tagliabue’s successor, Roger Goodell — as “infected.”
“Bottom line, it sounded like I was shooting the messenger, which was the concussion issue,” he said on Talk of Fame Network. “My intention at the time was to make a point which could have been made fairly simply: that there was a need for better data. There was a need for more reliable information about concussions and uniformity in terms of how they were being defined in terms of severity” …
Tagliabue oversaw a myriad of new stadiums and negotiated television contracts that added billions of dollars to the league’s bank account. Under him, there were no labor stoppages and a very workable environment with the NFL Players Association — an atmosphere that no longer exists.
Former NFL commissioner, 2020 HOF inductee Paul Tagliabue: "I'm proud and grateful to have played a small part in shaping the evolution of the National Football League in the last four decades"https://t.co/2XlMnY9cl3 pic.twitter.com/v0ViLejM1L— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) August 8, 2021
[Ewing] in some ways defines Georgetown basketball in terms of tradition of success on the court with athletes who came and for the most part stayed for an academic experience, not just for a one-year experience. But the other thing is he’s got this unique personal quality of setting his goals very high and this confidence, and it’s not over-confidence and arrogance — just a confidence that when it comes to playing basketball, teaching basketball, coaching basketball, leading a program, that he can achieve at the highest level. He did that as a player, as a professional player.
He’s developed those skills in coaching four different teams in over 14 years, and he just seemed to be a person who would redefine the program in terms of goals and levels of energy. And he has demonstrated over his career — when he came to Georgetown at 17 or 18 years old and now he is 54 years old, which is a 37-year interval — he has demonstrated that he is really a leader and someone who likes to be personally accountable for success and failure — is someone who embraces responsibility and leadership, not someone who shirks from that.
So in the end he had all of the qualities we were looking for. There were three or four people we were still evaluating when it came to the final weekend before we announced the decision on Monday, but then Patrick emerged on the final weekend.
Congratulations to Paul Tagliabue (C’62) for the well-deserved honor of being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame! A longtime Hoya and treasured supporter of Georgetown, the former NFL commissioner is celebrated for his impact on professional football.https://t.co/PtzYlSfGVD— Georgetown Univ. (@Georgetown) January 17, 2020
PRESS RELEASE from GUHoyas.com:
Hoya Alum Paul Tagliabue (C’62) Enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
WASHINGTON – Georgetown University alumnus Paul Tagliabue (C’62) was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio this past weekend. The former NFL commissioner was one of 12 enshrinees from the Class of 2020, which is also the Centennial Class. The event presented the coveted gold jacket to both the members of the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 after last year’s ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19.
Tagliabue was presented by former NFL player and executive Art Shell. Additionally, a gift from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to Tagliabue celebrating his election to the hall of fame was announced to be used to advance diversity throughout the sport. The James Harris-Doug Williams Fellowship, which provides a post-graduate opportunity at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to a recent college graduate from an accredited Historically Black College and University (HBCU), will be endowed for two years in Tagliabue’s honor.
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.
Tagliabue was elected to succeed Pete Rozelle on October 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 who 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 separate 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.
Tagliabue was a member of the varsity men’s basketball team on the Hilltop from 1959-62. The three-year starter is ranked ninth on the career rebounding average list with 9.0 rpg pulling down a total of 584 which puts him in the top 30 all-time. He also served as a team captain his senior season. On campus Tagliabue was elected president of his senior class and was a member of the Jesuit Honor Society.
He was a member of Georgetown’s Board of Directors from 2006-18 and served as both vice chair and chair during his tenure.
Tagliabue is the third member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have an affiliation with Georgetown. He joins longtime Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, who was inducted in 1964, and 1967-inductee Dan Reeves, the owner of then-Los Angeles Rams who moved the franchise to the West Coast from Cleveland. Rooney attended the Hilltop in the early 1920s (did not graduate), and Reeves graduated from the College in 1932.