NFL CONTROVERSIES : Dissenting Owners Plan to Meet Monday
The 11 club owners who rocked the boat in the National Football League last week will meet again in Chicago Monday night to decide on their next move, a spokesman for Robert Irsay, president of the Indianapolis Colts, said Thursday.
And by then, their membership will have increased to 12, another NFL owner said.
The 12th is Bud Adams, president of the Houston Oilers, who, grounded by weather, missed the league meeting last week when an 11-club minority prevented the promotion of New Orleans General Manager Jim Finks to commissioner.
Adams could not be reached Thursday, but Ed DeBartolo, president of the San Francisco 49ers and one of the dissident faction’s leaders, said: “Bud Adams is with us now.”
The dissident owners, with whom Ram President Georgia Frontiere is also associated, will meet at Irsay’s country club on the night before NFL executives convene to make final plans for the new international league. That league, again, has changed its name--this time to World League of American Football.
Raider owner Al Davis, often a maverick, has sided with the majority favoring Finks.
The NFL rift developed last week when Finks received only 16 of the 19 votes necessary to be elected.
The 11 dissenting owners charged the search committee with a failure to present more than one candidate as promised.
"(The committee) wanted us to rubber stamp (Finks),” DeBartolo said. “We didn’t ask much. We just wanted to review the qualifications of their last six or eight (finalists) and they turned us down.”
It also has been learned this week that some dissident owners feared that the committee’s six old-guard members were scheming to restructure the league themselves--minus input from other owners--by also choosing two deputies after first selecting Finks.
One source said that the committee’s nominees for deputy commissioner were Willie Davis, a Los Angeles businessman, and Robert Mulcahy, who operates the Meadowlands sports facility in New Jersey.
Four or five years into the 1990s, with the retirement of Finks, now 61, his successor was to have been either Davis or Mulcahy, the source said. A New Yorker, Mulcahy is the landlord of two NFL tenants, the Giants and Jets.
Wellington Mara, president of the Giants and co-chairman of the NFL committee that recommended Finks, said he has been impressed by both Davis and Mulcahy.
“They were both finalists in the (race) for commissioner,” Mara said. “We included that in our report to the league. But (choosing deputies) was not part of our mandate.”
According to another report this week, owners representing both sides are trying to effect a compromise allowing the dissidents to name the new deputies in return for supporting Finks.
Spokesmen expect a compromise of some sort, but they predict that it will take another form.
“The new commissioner, whoever he is, should be part of the decision on deputies,” said Mara.
Norman Braman, president of the Philadelphia Eagles and a leader of the dissident group, called the current problem a disagreement not on deputies, but on a new commissioner.
“A deal for a deputy wouldn’t address the main thing wrong,” Braman said. “What’s wrong is that the search committee didn’t give us a chance to consider any candidates except (Finks).
“What we want is the search reopened, in some manner, and additional names presented--along with full information about every (candidate).
“What we should have for commissioner is the best qualified (candidate) in the country. We want the best that’s out there.”
The place to start compromising, all dissident owners suggested, is with a different search committee.
Of other dissident leaders, Mike Lynn of Minnesota was on a business trip and unavailable, but Hugh Culverhouse of Tampa Bay said: “Our 11 are firmer now than ever. That’s because we’re all more aware of what’s at stake.
“This is more than a fight over a commissioner. What’s at stake is who’s going to structure the league into the 1990s.
“Will the search committee people decide that themselves, or will we all help decide it democratically?”
Culverhouse doubts if a compromise will work.
“The critical mistake was made when two owners (Mara and Lamar Hunt of Kansas City) were allowed to select the search committee,” he said. “My personal view is that we should start from scratch with a committee elected by all of us--and with open discussion on procedures and candidates.”
Nonetheless, compromise will be tried first, with outgoing Commissioner Pete Rozelle in charge.
With Adams now one of the dissenting owners, he joins these others: Pat Bowlen, Denver; Joe Robbie, Miami; Victor Kiam, New England; Ken Behring, Seattle and Jerry Jones, Dallas, plus Frontiere, DeBartolo, Culverhouse Lynn, Braman, and Irsay.
The committeemen they are objecting to are, in addition to Mara and Hunt, Art Modell, Cleveland; Ralph Wilson, Buffalo; Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh and Robert Parins, Green Bay.