It's NFL, Not Geography Class : Pro football: Carolina to debut in NFC West and Jacksonville joins AFC Central in temporary move. San Francisco gets '99 Super Bowl.


Did you hear about the new NFC West Division rivalry? Between regional foes Carolina and San Francisco?

And how about that emerging feud in the AFC Central, that back-yard battle between Jacksonville and, uh, Cleveland?

"We're natural rivals, we're 30 miles apart," Browns' owner Art Modell said, smiling and pausing. "By supersonic jet."

It was confusing. It seemed a bit silly.

But it is only temporary.

As expected, NFL owners agreed Wednesday to allow Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to slot the two expansion teams into the two four-team divisions for 1995, with realignment expected at the owners' meetings in Phoenix next March.

"Is it fair?" Modell said. "Well, it's just a one-year thing."

For one year, Carolina will compete for the NFC West championship with the 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and the Rams. Wherever the Rams may be.

Jacksonville will be in the AFC Central with the Browns, Houston Oilers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Responding to the stubbornness of league owners who could not agree to realign, Tagliabue ordered that some sort of alignment be approved by a vote next March, even if it's the current alignment.

Most owners say that by opening it to a vote, there will be enough arm-twisting to reach a majority on a new plan that will make more sense.

"This now puts realignment on the front burner and forces us to look at it," said Oiler owner Bud Adams, who desperately wants to move to the AFC West. "I think next year we will make some progress."

Or fall asleep trying.

"We will get a vote if we have the longest meeting in league history," Tagliabue said.

The Panthers and Jaguars are thrilled with their new, if interim, homes.

Carolina officials love the possibility of competing with natural rivals in New Orleans and Atlanta. Jacksonville officials hope to match the interest created by the Miami Dolphins when they joined the AFC East and played against teams from northern cities where many Miami residents once lived.

In other news on the final day of an uneventful meeting, San Francisco was awarded the 1999 Super Bowl and Pasadena was announced as one of six candidates for the Super Bowl of 2000.

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