Long shots bring out big plays Memphis boosts bid, as does Jacksonville BALTIMORE GETS THE STALL

October 27, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- In the high-finance game of NFL expansion, yesterday's long shots sweetened the pot in 11th-hour bids to close the gap.

Though their efforts didn't win either a franchise yesterday, Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla., upgraded their economic packages during 15-minute presentations to league owners.

William B. Dunavant Jr., chief investor in Memphis, said his ownership group would increase its down payment on the $140 million franchise fee from $42 million to more than $116 million. "We're putting more money up front than any other city," Dunavant said.

J. Wayne Weaver, who heads Jacksonville's expansion efforts, told the owners his group was increasing to five years its guarantee of sellouts at the Gator Bowl.

Later last night, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced Charlotte, N.C., would be awarded one expansion franchise. The decision on the second team was postponed until Nov. 30.

Attendance was a hot topic in Jacksonville's 15 minutes before the owners. Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman wanted to know what kind of attendance the Jacksonville Bulls drew in the United States Football League. That question was coupled with the city's new guarantee.

Weaver tried to play down the significance. "I don't think it's a concern [of the owners]," he said. "It's just something we offered."

With a strong ownership group that includes Fred Smith of Federal Express, Dunavant said the additional up-front money removed "the risk factor" from Memphis' bid.

"We added $10 million in equity today that wasn't there yesterday," he said.

Where was the money coming from?

"From our pockets and the banks," he said.

Dunavant said there were no questions asked during Memphis' presentation.

"[Monday] night, I was not very positive," he said. "But when you focus on what Memphis offered today . . . it's a package that can't be overlooked.

"Memphis has been an underdog. It's time for the underdog to win."

Still, Dunavant said if Memphis was unsuccessful, the city would attempt to persuade an existing team to move to Tennessee.

Memphis does not have a major professional team in any sport.

The closest it has come to big-time football was in the 1970s with the World Football League and in the 1980s with the U.S. Football League.

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