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From America's Team to L.A.'s?

September 07, 1996|T.J. SIMERS

Jerry Jones would never part with the Cowboys--would he?

Shoot-fire, no, but then why does he get so jacked up talking about the Los Angeles football market and the great challenge that is just sitting there to be conquered?

If the new television contract--as yet to be negotiated--does not call for huge financial gains when it kicks in before the 1998 season, Jones' Cowboys are going to have significant salary-cap concerns. As it is, his stars are beginning to tarnish, and so what if the outrageous one sold his team and stadium and became the point man in Los Angeles' bid for an NFL franchise?

"Certainly one man can energize and make it happen there," said Jones, who raised the issue without prompting. "There is a tremendous opportunity there for someone who wants to sink their teeth into it. That's the attractiveness of the situation and I predict it will attract the kind of individual who will engage people and make things happen."

There is no need for him to submit his resume. Mention his name to Los Angeles officials and they gasp with delight.

Far-fetched? Probably, but Jones wants to make something happen in Los Angeles, and if he's not the guy, he's making noise like a man who at least wants to be influential in whatever does happen.

"The lure is there," Jones said.

Imagine Jones selling the Cowboys, buying a team like Seattle or New England and then moving it to Los Angeles. His approach to business in Dallas has been aggressive and rewarding, although it has tested the NFL's traditional mode of operation. But then the NFL of the future will include corporate ownership and the kind of business partnerships Jones has already struck.

How far-fetched is Jerry Jones going Hollywood?

Anyone have a better idea?

"If you have the leadership in Los Angeles, you can get it done very quickly," said John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority and the man who persuaded Art Modell to leave Cleveland for Baltimore.

"I think Los Angeles should be concentrating on another team rather than expansion. I don't think the votes are there with the owners for expansion.

"Seattle, you wait a year to see how that thing shakes out. New England, Philadelphia, Arizona--he's gone, and he's probably the best bet to come."

If Arizona owner Bill Bidwill tries to come, he's stopped at the state line. But what if Jones came calling with an idea on how to build a stadium?

Moag, who has been approached by Los Angeles interests asking for his advice and potential involvement here, said, "The [NFL] guys in New York don't like the Coliseum. They don't like it because the owners don't like it and because of the neighborhood, but from what I hear from [the architects] about what they can do, that's the place to do it. It's a magnificent structure, it's got bonding authority and the real financial tools you need. Nothing else has that.

"I just can't believe [Peter] O'Malley can make that thing work at Dodger Stadium. I don't see how it works financially. If you're a guy like Jack Kent Cooke you don't care, but he's not."

HOK, one of the leading stadium architects, has designed a 67,000-seat stadium to be built within the existing walls of the Coliseum. The multilevel structure would include 8,000 club seats and 140 luxury boxes. It would take 18 months to two years to build and cost $173.502 million. Coliseum officials are talking to the NFL about making a formal presentation.

"We're talking about a new stadium," said Pat Lynch, Coliseum general manager. "Not a retrofit."

Moag, who discounted the viability of Hollywood Park as a potential site, said, "Who cares what the NFL people want--as if they know. Put a training facility near the Coliseum and make a team have a positive impact on the neighborhood. Part of a team's responsibility is to the community.

"Who is the person to step forward in L.A. to make it happen? I don't know. But that has to happen."

How about Jerry Jones?

"That's fascinating," Moag said. "It would sell. A fascinating idea, and it makes sense in a lot of ways. Fascinating."


You can tell the Rams are getting better. Their players are becoming arrogant, unapproachable and working hard to end the honeymoon in St. Louis.

They had better start winning, and they probably will. It might be too early for them to strike fear in the 49ers' hearts Sunday, but the up-and-coming team to beat in the NFC West is going to be the Rams.

They have assembled a potent offense for the future with running back Lawrence Phillips, receivers Isaac Bruce, Eddie Kennison and Troy Drayton, and quarterback Tony Banks. They also have two dynamic safeties and a pair of top-notch defensive ends.

Quarterback Steve Walsh is temporary help, but Steve Ortmayer, the former Raider coach-executive who self-destructed with the San Diego Chargers after assembling quality talent, has once again shown a knack for identifying talent. But can Ortmayer & Co. keep the troops under control and maintain tolerable public relations until the team wins?

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