Although the National Football League owners are expected to vote tomorrow in Minneapolis to expand by two teams in 1994, it will take at least 18 months for the league to actually name the two cities.
Pittsburgh Steelers president Dan Rooney, who is a member of the expansion and realignment committee, said yesterday that the two teams probably won't be named before the fall of 1992.
He said the league would have to name the teams by March 1993 to give them time to get organized to play by the fall of 1994.
With the league taking more than a year to decide on the teams, Baltimore, it it gets a team, would have to play in Memorial Stadium for at least one season before a new football stadium could be built downtown at Camden Yards next to the baseball stadium currently under construction.
Herbert J. Belgrad, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said last week that he hoped the league would name the teams by this fall so that Baltimore would have a chance to get the new stadium completed for the first season of play if it got a team.
"They're going to have to take us as we are," Belgrad said. "I'd say you're talking at least two or three years between the time the architectural drawings are done and the construction is completed."
Belgrad plans to leave today for Minneapolis, where he will attend the two-day owners meeting, which starts tomorrow. He said he is not disappointed that the owners plan to take so long to identify the two expansion cities.
"From our point of view, nothing has changed," he said. "We have the commitment of dollars in place to move forward once we get the nod."
The expansion and realignment committee voted last week in New York to recommend that the owners vote to expand by two teams in 1994. Although some opposition is expected in Minneapolis by owners who don't want to expand, the owners are expected to follow that recommendation.
Once the owners give the go-ahead, commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said, he will appoint a second expansion committee to study the cities.
Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell said he would recommend that Rooney, who was chairman of the expansion committee when the league last expanded in 1976, also be chairman of the new committee. But Tagliabue might decide to be chairman himself. It is uncertain whether Tagliabue will name the second committee at this week's meeting.
Rooney said the league hopes it can solve some of its other problems before it expands, including getting a collective-bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, which says it is not a union. But the owners are prepared to expand without such an agreement if the logjam can't be broken.
Besides Baltimore, the other leading contenders for expansion teams are St. Louis; Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Oakland and Sacramento, Calif., and San Antonio.
Baltimore, St. Louis and Oakland have lost their teams in the past decade, but Rooney said they won't be treated any differently than the cities that are trying to get teams for the first time.
"Everybody's equal," he said. "The fairest thing to do is to go to the cities that make the most sense."
Now it seems likely that Baltimore will have to wait another year and a half before it finds out out whether the NFL considers it to be one of those cities.