Dallas was no different than Chicago. The National Football League's 28 owners still cannot agree on who should be their next commissioner.
Once again Wednesday, in Dallas, the owners did not produce the required 19 votes to select a commissioner. Neither could they do it at their July meeting in Chicago, when Jim Finks came the closest.
So on Tuesday, Oct. 24, they will meet in Cleveland.
Now the backers of the two leading candidates, Finks and Paul Tagliabue, have been so steadfast that outgoing Commissioner Pete Rozelle didn't even poll the clubs.
He let stand Tuesday's results--in which Finks, 62, the general manager of the New Orleans Saints, peaked with 15 votes and finished with 13 on the last ballot, according to several club sources.
Tagliabue, 48, an NFL lawyer who wasn't even a candidate in Chicago, came on fast in Dallas and matched Finks' 13 on the last ballot, his backers reported.
The Finks group includes most of the 16 old-guard owners who voted for him in July. The Tagliabue group includes most of the 11 who didn't.
The other candidates for commissioner, businessmen Willie Davis and Pat Barrett, drew early support, but by the final ballot it was clear that the owners prefer a leader with current NFL connections.
The official count wasn't released.
There were two passes--by Raider managing general partner Al Davis and Pittsburgh Steeler President Dan Rooney, most sources said. Davis and Rooney had previously been steadfast Finks allies.
The defections suggested that at last, after nearly six months as the front-runner, Finks' position was being whittled down.
"I think other (owners) could be persuaded to switch votes," Atlanta President Rankin Smith said after the 11 1/2-hour Wednesday meeting. "I mean others for both sides.
"The key thing about that (13-13) vote is that it isn't a true indication of either man's strength. There's more flexibility in this league than you hear."
Some owners agreed with Smith, but most did not. The NFL's conventional wisdom today is that Finks and Tagliabue each have the hard-core backing of 11 or 12 clubs.
The NFL is a minority-rules league. A group of 10 owners can block the election of any candidate.
Rozelle called the Dallas conclusion an impasse.
"There wasn't a material softening (of support) for either individual (Wednesday)," said the man who doesn't want to be commissioner anymore.
So what's next?
The NFL will apparently go into Cleveland with three options:
--Finks or Tagliabue.
--Finks \o7 and \f7 Tagliabue, with one as commissioner and one, possibly, as president.
--A compromise choice. "That could happen," said Rozelle, who was the NFL's compromise choice 30 years ago.
Asked to pick the most likely of these options, Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt said: "I'm not sure. I honestly don't have any feel at all for what (the NFL) will do now."
Said Cleveland owner Art Modell: "I don't think anybody can predict this one."
Declining to name compromise candidates, Rozelle said: "Various people were discussed."
Pointedly, he added: "The search committee has not been dissolved."