SAN FRANCISCO -– Eddie DeBartolo’s journey from Youngstown, Ohio, to owner of the 49ers will reach its final destination just 60 miles from his hometown.
DeBartolo was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in a vote of the 46-member board of selectors on the eve of Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. The enshrinement ceremony will take place on Aug. 6, in Canton, Ohio.
DeBartolo, 69, this year’s lone nominee as a “contributor” was selected for the Class of 2016. Mindi Bach of CSN Bay Area was first to report DeBartolo's induction.
The latest group of eight Hall of Fame inductees, as selected during a meeting that lasted approximately nine hours at Moscone Center, also includes quarterback Brett Favre, receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Orlando Pace, pass-rusher Kevin Greene and coach Tony Dungy. Greene played his 15th and final season with the 49ers in 1997.
Both senior committee nominees, Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel, were enshrined posthumously. Stabler was a member of the NFL’s all-1970s team while with the Oakland Raiders. Stanfel, a San Francisco native who played collegiately at the University of San Francisco, played guard for Detroit and Washington in the 1950s. Both Stabler and Stanfel passed away in 2015.
Former 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens announced on Twitter that he fell short of the required vote during his first year of eligibility. Owens wrote: "Unfortunately I did not make it. CONGRATS to the 2016 HOF CLASS. Thanks to ALL MY FANS for ur unwavering love & support."
Owens ranks second in NFL history with 15,934 receiving yards, third with 153 receiving touchdowns, and sixth with 1,078 career receptions.
Owens was certainly not passed over for his on-field performance. The voters discussed Owens’ pros and cons for 43 minutes, 12 seconds, according to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
He played his first eight seasons with the 49ers, but also spent short periods of time with Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo and Cincinnati over his final seven years in the NFL. Owens will have to wait at least another year.
DeBartolo is no stranger to waiting. He was a finalist for the Hall of Fame on three separate occasions before this year. DeBartolo took over ownership of the 49ers in 1977. He hired Bill Walsh in 1979, and his teams averaged 13 victories per season from 1981 to 1998 – not including the strike-shortened 1982 season.
During his time in charge, DeBartolo’s teams won five Super Bowls, 13 NFC West championships, advanced to the NFC Championship game 10 times and made 16 playoff appearances. The 49ers posted the highest win percentage in the 1980s and 1990s.
But DeBartolo likely fell short of the required votes in previous years due to a 49ers salary-cap violation in the late-1990s and the way his ownership ended with the 49ers.
The NFL’s salary cap was instituted to level the playing field, in part, due to DeBartolo’s eagerness to attract and stockpile top players with his spending.
Then-team president Carmen Policy and vice president Dwight Clark reached settlements with the NFL as part of the league's investigation into alleged salary-cap violations. The 49ers agreed to pay a $300,00 fine and surrender draft picks in 2001 and 2002.
DeBartolo's tenure with the 49ers ended in controversy in March 2000 when he reached an agreement with his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, to split their financial interests. DeBartolo York, and her husband, John York, gained permanent control of the football team, a racetrack in Louisiana and the Edward J. DeBartolo corporate headquarters in Youngstown. Eddie DeBartolo agreed to take real estate holdings and stock.
One year earlier, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced a one-year suspension for DeBartolo for his role in a gambling scandal that resulted in DeBartolo pleading guilty to a felony for failure to report an extortion attempt from former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.
Leading up to Saturday’s selection, DeBartolo said he was truly humbled to be considered for the highest honor in the sport while acknowledging the complication of his exit from the NFL. But DeBartolo was wildly popular among his players and he is the only owner in NFL history with five Super Bowl titles.
“Whatever good I did in the past, whatever bad I did in the past, I mean, it all goes together,” DeBartolo said. “It’s like baking a loaf of bread. When it comes out of the oven, people say he deserves it or he doesn’t deserve it.”
Hall of Fame officials instructed voters to not to weigh DeBartolo’s legal issues when considering his candidacy, sources told CSNBayArea.com. The voters discussed DeBartolo for longest period of time, 50 minutes, 33 seconds, according Gosselin.