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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Expansion Is the Only Way to Go for Football in L.A.

December 10, 1996|RANDY HARVEY

For those who claim an NFL expansion team would not succeed here because we don't have the patience to wait for one to build from the ground up, I say you have greatly underestimated us.

We can wait two years.

That's the new timetable for expansion teams to reach the playoffs as established by the 10-4 Carolina Panthers, guaranteed postseason play even if they don't hold their NFC West lead. Except in comparison to the Panthers, the 7-7 Jacksonville Jaguars also have done remarkably well and could advance in the AFC as a wild card.

Unlike previous expansion teams, both teams benefited from liberal free agency rules enabling them to sign established veterans. They also benefited from the largess of NFL owners, who gave them additional draft choices.

Seeing how quickly the Panthers and Jaguars became contenders, the owners might not be so generous next time. But they will have to make some concessions in return for a $140 million franchise fee. I'm guessing an expansion team in Los Angeles or Anaheim would play in the Super Bowl before a relocated team like the Cardinals or Seahawks.

So is Ronnie Lott.

"Expansion is the only way to go," said the former Trojan and L.A. Raider safety and now a television commentator. "What's happened in Carolina shows it can work in a hurry. It's important to remember, though, that the key isn't the players but the right people at the top of the organization."

Lott nominates his former coach with the San Francisco 49ers, Bill Walsh.

In conversations about it, Lott said Walsh indicated he would be interested in assembling a Southern California expansion team.

"Put him together with the guys at DreamWorks," Lott said. "That would be perfect for L.A."

*

Lott, who spent 15 years dispensing pain as one of the NFL's most punishing tacklers, is now trying to relieve it. He and former Raider trainer George Anderson have started a business, applying magnetic field therapy to injuries.

Who could be better than Lott, whose football career left him with chronic pain from head to toe, to serve as director of product testing?

*

Anyone who follows the Carolina Panthers knows what became of Kerry Collins, Penn State's quarterback in the 1995 Rose Bowl game. What about Danny O'Neil, the Oregon quarterback from Mater Dei who completed 41 of 61 passes for 465 yards and two touchdowns in that game? He's a youth pastor in Orange County. . . .

The best choice the Panthers made, or probably ever will make, was Dom Capers as coach over the other top candidate, Rich Kotite. . . .

Oregon State is expected to announce a new football coach Wednesday. It will be a surprise if it isn't USC offensive coordinator Mike Riley. . . .

USC's athletic department has had Rhodes scholar bragging rights in town with former quarterback Pat Haden. Now UCLA can counter with swimmer Annette Salmeen, a chemistry major with a 3.9 grade-point average who won a gold medal last summer in Atlanta. . . .

Medical clearance for David Robinson to return to the San Antonio lineup is bad news for the Clippers' centers but good for the team's box office. They meet the Spurs on Thursday night in the second of a five-game homestand. . . .

After limiting the NHL's leading scorer, Colorado's Peter Forsberg, to a third-period assist Saturday night, the Kings challenge the second-leading scorer, Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr, tonight at the Forum. With his empty netter Saturday night against the Ducks, he has 27 goals in 27 games. . . .

The Kings are serious about their "Serious Hockey" campaign. Sensing that the kids aren't all right at IHL affiliate Phoenix, they fired Coach John Perpich and brought back Rob Laird. . . .

The International Olympic Committee's site inspectors completed their tour of 11 candidates for the 2004 Summer Games with a visit Monday to Cape Town, South Africa. The city has lost support because of the IOC's trepidation over South Africa's future when Nelson Mandela is no longer president. Rome and Stockholm appear to be the favorites. . . .

Speaking of his decision four years ago to bench Marcus Allen, Al Davis told NBC's Jim Gray on Sunday, "We thought a lot of this would come out at the O.J. Simpson trial, and it still might." What was he talking about? Inquiring minds want to know.

*

While wondering how much Donald Trump bet on Texas against Nebraska, I was thinking, Jimmy Johnson doesn't have to worry about getting his Bob's Big Boy hairdo mussed by Gatorade this year, it's a no-brainer for the Blues to keep Brett Hull and let Mike Keenan go, the Sacramento Kings didn't need Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf when they had Tyus Edney, the Bulls can't win more than 72 games with Dennis Rodman.

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