Five-time Super Bowl-winning owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. is on the brink of being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced DeBartolo was selected as a finalist for the Class of 2016 in the contributor category. DeBartolo must receive the necessary 80-percent vote on the eve of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara to earn election.
"I'm truly humbled ... my football life is going through my head right now," DeBartolo said upon being named as a finalist, according to the Hall of Fame.
Last month, DeBartolo also served as the presenter for Charles Haley, who was elected into the Hall of Fame. Haley was the fifth person who selected DeBartolo to present him. The others were coach Bill Walsh in 1993, quarterback Joe Montana in 2000, defensive end Fred Dean in 2008 and wide receiver Jerry Rice in 2010.
DeBartolo was in charge of the 49ers for 23 years, during which time the organization won all of its five Super Bowls, made 16 playoff appearances, won 13 division titles and had 16 consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more. He was a Hall of Fame finalist for the two years prior to the decision to place contributors into a separate category.
However, DeBartolo’s reign ended in controversy when he pleaded guilty to a felony -- failure to report a 1997 extortion attempt stemming from his attempt to acquire a riverboat gambling license in Louisiana. Then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue suspended him for a year. DeBartolo never regained control of the 49ers.
The Hall of Fame last year added the contributor category. Both nominees – former NFL general manager Bill Polian and longtime NFL executive Ron Wolf – were elected into the Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame president David Baker said last summer there was a need to add the category to ensure qualified candidates, including former commissioners, owners and general managers, were not inducted at the expense of players.
Last year, two contributors and one senior player (former Minnesota center Mick Tingelhoff) were inducted into the Hall of Fame. This year, DeBartolo is the one contributor and there will be two senior players who will be chosen as finalists. Those numbers will continue to rotate over five years.