No sense kicking about it: Colts' name saddled in Indy Sell the franchise label? No way, says J. Irsay

August 19, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass cringes at the name even now, a decade after the fact.

The Indianapolis Colts.

"It's a dead name," Weinglass said yesterday. "It does not belong in Indianapolis. It's worse than the Baltimore Rhinos."

Weinglass, who leads one of two ownership groups trying to bring an NFL expansion team to Baltimore, would like to return the nickname, the blue-and-white colors and the horseshoe logo as well. That way, he figures, he'd be doing both Indianapolis and his native Baltimore a favor.

"If we had the name back in Baltimore, it means they'd get a new logo, hipper than the Indianapolis Colts, in Indiana," he said. "The Indianapolis Racers is a better name than the Colts. I can name 30 names that are better than the Indianapolis Colts."

Then, too, Weinglass wouldn't have to wrestle with the nightmarish reaction to the nickname Rhinos, apparently floated as a trial balloon last week.

He should not hold his breath, though.

The Colts name isn't likely to be coming back. Not if Jim Irsay has anything to say about it.

"It's something, for a number of reasons, we wouldn't consider," said Irsay, Colts general manager and son of team owner Robert Irsay.

Foremost among those reasons, Jim Irsay said, was propriety.

"The idea of selling and dividing a franchise from a very identifiable label is not appropriate at all," he said. "When you buy a football team, part of that is the identity. And part of that is the horseshoe.

"I've never heard of anyone selling the franchise name."

The Colts left Baltimore in March 1984. In a March 1986 settlement of pending lawsuits over the move, the Colts agreed to discuss the possible return of the name, provided the NFL expanded into Baltimore by 1989. The three-year timetable lapsed, and the Colts have no obligation to consider a name change.

"Realistically, it doesn't look like the most viable option," said Joel Glazer, son of Malcolm Glazer, the other investor interested in bringing a team here. "We have said that, at the proper time, we would pursue it if that's what the fans wanted. But the name is owned by the Indianapolis Colts. We've got to get the team first."

Weinglass said that if Baltimore got one of two expansion teams to be awarded in October and he were named owner, he would make "one call" to Robert Irsay to find out if there was room for negotiation. But he said he doesn't expect the name to be available.

"I don't think I would call at this stage because it might be time for a new era," Weinglass said. "I don't think [Irsay] would do it, anyway. He's got money invested in the name, and it's his team."

A transfer of the Colts name would be laden with logistical complications. The Colts would require league approval for name and logo changes. They could not now change their name for the 1993 season. That means even if Irsay were willing to sell the trademark rights, NFL Properties would have two sets of Colts merchandise available this year, an awkward circumstance at best. The expansion cities won't field teams until the 1995 season.

Indianapolis also would have to design a new logo and uniforms, change all Colts signs and stationery and make appropriate adjustments to the Hoosier Dome, including revising the end zones. All told, the cost might run as high as $200,000, according to one estimate.

Weinglass said a name change probably would help the sale of Indianapolis merchandise, which has lagged far behind the sale of Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Raiders memorabilia. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the Colts ranked 24th of the league's 28 teams in sales in 1991, the latest year for which figures are available. The 28 teams split revenue equally from the sale of NFL merchandise.

Jim Irsay, talking about the Colts' heritage, says it's a moot point.

"The legacy of the franchise is now in Indianapolis," he said.

"It will always have its history in Baltimore, and in Dallas, where it started.

"I have a lot of friends and fond memories of Baltimore. If an expansion team came there, it'd be exciting to have a new legacy. If the name was sold . . . what a class-less act to sell it for money."

Ernie Accorsi, a former general manager of the Colts who is now an adviser to the Maryland Stadium Authority, summed up sentiment here for the possible return of the Colts name.

"It would make everything right with the world," Accorsi said, "but I just don't hold out much hope."

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