False start: CFL team not here yet

December 02, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer Staff writers Jon Morgan, David Michael Ettlin and Michael A. Fletcher contributed to this article.

For the second time in 24 hours, Baltimore lost a pro football team yesterday. This time, though, hardly anyone noticed.

Contrary to a news release that announced the awarding of a Canadian Football League team to Baltimore, Virginia businessman Jim Speros said the deal has not yet been finalized.

Before he can put a team in Memorial Stadium to play next season, Speros needs a lease agreement with the city and approval from the CFL board of governors.

"We retract the statement," he said. "One of my people got overzealous."

The release was issued by his ad agency without his knowledge or approval, Speros said.

One day after Baltimore's bid for an NFL expansion team was rejected, news about a CFL team was not received warmly by the city's expansion organizers.

"It's wonderful except for one thing: They have to have a place to play, and neither the mayor nor governor has signed a lease," Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad said.

"I think it's a little obscene that before we've even returned from Chicago that they are announcing they are coming to Baltimore."

A lease is problematic, given the likelihood city officials will try to lure an existing team to Baltimore in the aftermath of their bitter expansion defeat. No decision has been made on going after another NFL team, however.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he was told by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke about Speros' attempt to bring a CFL team here. But he said he would not address the CFL prospect until a decision was made on the NFL sometime this week.

"They're not going to have a lease -- we're not talking about a lease [until that decision is made]," Schaefer said.

Said Schmoke: "All those things are going to be subject to my discussions with the governor later this week."

Speros, meanwhile, is headed to Winnipeg tomorrow to meet with the CFL's board of governors. CFL commissioner Larry Smith said no decision will be made on Speros' application for an expansion team, in part because it lacks a stadium lease. Smith said the governors also need to verify the information in the application before voting.

Speros said he submitted a lease proposal to Schmoke on Nov. 11. "I'm not asking for any money," he said. "I want to operate the stadium. I'll take full financial responsibility of the stadium. I'd also like to get the Owings Mills complex [used by the Colts before they left in 1984].

"Hopefully, I'll get a meeting with the mayor between now and Dec. 15. I won't be on his doorstep tomorrow."

Speros gave a glimpse yesterday of his plans for the would-be franchise:

* He said he will consider using Colts as the team nickname. "I'm here to give the city what it wants," he said. "If people really want the name, I'll check into all the legal ramifications. But I'd rather start fresh."

* He said he will try to sign Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward as his "marquee" player. Each team in the CFL is allowed one player who does not count against the $2.5 million salary cap. "David Archer threw for 6,000 yards this year [for the Sacramento Gold Mine]," Speros said. "I think Charlie Ward can rush for over 1,000 and throw for over 5,000."

* He said he hoped to include all Atlantic Coast Conference schools, plus Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia and Virginia Tech, in his territorial list of colleges for which he held player rights.

* In a league of wide-open offense, he said he would like to have an attack similar to the San Francisco 49ers. "Steve Young is the prototype of the CFL quarterback," Speros said. "I want to see five guys out [as receivers] every play."

* He said if he gets a lease at Memorial Stadium, he would like to bring high school state championship games there, along with charitable events. "We want to get very active in the community."

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