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Deadlines Are Made to Be Broken

News analysis: Owners' meeting on Oct. 5-6 now appears to be when NFL will pick between Los Angeles and Houston for expansion team.

September 14, 1999|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The NFL invited all bidders for an expansion team to New York on Monday, then ignoring Wednesday's advertised deadline to pick between Los Angeles and Houston, advised everyone to get real serious before the owners meet again Oct. 5-6 in Atlanta.

This time, as opposed to the last time and time before that, the NFL really means business, unless of course they delay action until meetings Nov. 2-3 in Chicago.

As anticipated, Hollywood Park has become the new last resort for Los Angeles with Marvin Davis' son, Greg, meeting with league officials and nodding a lot as they talked money.

At no time, however, did he pull out his checkbook, which convinced everyone he was indeed Marvin Davis' son. Remember, this is Los Angeles' leading contender for the return of football, if the NFL is to be believed.

But why start now? The NFL is not interested in Los Angeles as much it is intent on driving up the franchise fee that Houston will have to pay to join the fraternity.

An NFL official disagreed with that assessment, saying the league's owners will simply agree to remain at 31 teams--providing all the leverage they need--until they receive a favorable financial package.

Eli Broad was a no-show at the NFL offices, although the league had made special consideration to slot his meeting time early to allow him to return to Los Angeles for a previous engagement.

Ed Roski stood in for Broad and maintained that his group could eventually present a plan providing funds for parking garages through the use of tax money raised by the arrival of the new team.

The NFL remains skeptical, but took no official action to kill the Coliseum effort, although the league privately pronounced it dead weeks ago.

Michael Ovitz, caught in limbo between the Coliseum and a renewed effort in Carson, is waiting to see if Broad will drop out, which could mean a merger of Ovitz, Roski and grocery store billionaire Ron Burkle.

Marvin Davis, pushing a plan for Hollywood Park, has apparently made a preliminary offer better than the one accepted by the league on behalf of the Raiders before Al Davis ran off to Oakland.

The league has told Marvin Davis to determine what he might be willing to pay for a franchise, and has indicated it will work on his behalf to bring John Elway to Los Angeles to assist in marketing and participate in team management if Davis gets the final bid.

Houston's prospective owner, Bob McNair, also met with the league officials, and began laying out details of his city's plans for a new stadium. The next few weeks, NFL officials said, will be dedicated to determining a franchise fee for the league's 32nd team.

So much for that Sept. 15 deadline.

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