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WLAF Will Succeed With Tight Rein on Dollar, League President Believes

February 13, 1991|From Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Considering the history of alternative professional football leagues, you'd think Mike Lynn might be a little apprehensive about starting the World League of American Football.

Instead, the former Minnesota Vikings general manager is convinced that the WLAF will succeed when it makes its debut in 10 stadiums and five countries next month.

The teams will begin assembling talent on Thursday when a unique position-by-position draft begins in Orlando. More than 600 players will be selected by the time the process ends on Feb. 24 under a system in which each team gets the first choice at a different position.

The New York-New Jersey Knights get the first pick Tuesday because they chose the rights to the top offensive lineman. The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks won the first overall pick and went for offense, choosing the No. 1 wide receiver, the No. 2 running back, the No. 3 tight end and the fourth quarterback.

Whatever, Lynn thinks there will be plenty of talent.

"There are 10,000 football players produced annually, 2,000 of which are of the quality to play professionally," Lynn said. "The NFL drafts 336 of those, 175 make the roster the first year and 75 are still around after three years.

"That leaves a reservoir of 1,925 football players to pick from. That's an awful lot of talent. We're going to take that talent, develop our own stars and keep them in this league."

The WLAF will be backed by the NFL when it begins play March 23 with franchises in Orlando, Birmingham, Sacramento, San Antonio, New York, Raleigh-Durham, London, Montreal, Barcelona, Spain and Frankfurt, Germany.

Its board of directors is made up of NFL team officials, who first hired Tex Schramm, the former Dallas Cowboys president, as president, then replaced him last fall with Lynn.

The NFL got 26 of its 28 teams to contribute $50,000 as start-up money. In addition, the new league has a $50-million television contract with ABC and the USA Network as well as a salary structure aimed at maintaining economic sanity.

The players will all receive a base salary of $20,000 with incentives that reward performance. If a player meets every incentive, his salary would be $100,000.

"We wanted a system that rewards performance, and I think this will be the wave of the future," Lynn said. "The other leagues drove themselves out of business with escalating salaries. We're the only league that can control the ledger side of our business."

The draft will be held in six phases by player position groups. Teams will select offensive linemen on Thursday; running backs, punters and kickers on Saturday; quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends on Feb. 18; defensive linemen on Feb. 20; linebackers on Feb. 22 and defensive backs on Feb. 24.

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