CFL bid gains speed, with Matte, maybe Accorsi joining in

January 07, 1994|By John Steadman

So far, the Baltimore effort to join the Canadian Football League has been moving with deliberate restraint. Call it controlled enthusiasm. However, the present mode has a game plan that will soon change.

Even Tom Matte, a rah-rah-rah, sis-boom-bah personality, is doing all he can to prevent spinning off into orbit. But Matte says this is only temporary. Any day now he will go public and turn into a skyrocket of enthusiasm. Matte, one of the Baltimore Colts' glorious heroes of yesteryear, is identified with the franchise that has made application to join the CFL.

Now comes information that another Colt, a former general manager, Ernie Accorsi, may become a special consultant to owner Jim Speros on a temporary basis. Thus the CFL, despite attempts at a low profile, has brought itself a measure of attention.

Accorsi, on a golf vacation in Marathon, Fla., paused long enough in his backswing to admit Speros has talked to him. He said no decision has been made to accept the opportunity of serving as an adviser during the early stages of trying to bring the CFL to Baltimore. "My role, if we agreed, would probably only be part-time," he said. "A CFL team called the Colts in Baltimore would be an interesting adventure."

Meanwhile, Accorsi remains a possible candidate for a position with the Phoenix Cardinals and the two new expansion cities. In the vernacular of the game, he's a free agent and has not made a commitment. Nothing is definite.

Matte, Speros and Irv Cross, the former NFL player and CBS television analyst, have done extensive work, much more than is generally known. They met with Mayor Kurt Schmoke, the Bureau of Recreation & Parks and also the Baltimore Development Corp., in regard to a rental lease for Memorial Stadium.

"The mayor was as hospitable and considerate as he always is," reported Matte. "We realize it's a dilemma for him since the city would like to attract the NFL. We want to cooperate in every way. We've followed every guideline and the mayor has been informed of our meetings with other Baltimore officials."

Although no announcements have been made, a coach, Don Matthews, has been interviewed and tentatively agreed to take the job. Three scouts have covered postseason bowl games. The Colts' Band has agreed to identify with the new team and the Council of Colt Corrals voted unanimously to support the CFL when it arrives.

"I am so disgusted over what the National Football League has done to Baltimore," continued Matte. "What I'd like to say about commissioner Paul Tagliabue can't be printed. But he proves to the world every day how little he knows about football."

Meanwhile, Matte is being contacted by newspapers and radio stations from various points about Canada. Until Matte was 25, during his early seasons with the Colts, he held dual Canadian and American citizenship. When the Colts drafted him as their No. 1 choice in 1961 out of Ohio State, he also was selected by the Toronto Argonauts -- a team his brother, Bruce, later played ++ for after spending a year on the Washington Redskins' taxi squad.

Matte's roots run deep in Canada. His grandparents were born there and so was his father, who went on to play in both the National Hockey League and American Hockey League.

"I have more relatives in Canada than in America," he said. "They keep calling to say how happy they'd be if Baltimore joins the CFL. The Matte name in Canada is like Smith is here. Only they pronounce it like Matt, without the 'e'."

The commissioner of the CFL, though, is Smith, first name Larry, and Matte says he impresses him like few leaders he's met. "Wait until you meet this guy," he exclaimed. "He played nine years in the CFL as a running back, was an immense success in business and, unlike the present NFL commissioner, understands football."

There's also a report that David Julian, who helped the Maryland Stadium Authority in attempts to draw an NFL expansion team to Baltimore, will be joining Baltimore's new version of the Colts in an executive position. More definitive word will come later but Speros, Cross and Matte have done much quietly to prepare for a team.

Telephones are ringing in the team's new Baltimore office to inquire about tickets but they are not yet available. This is only a courtesy for customers. A good omen can inadvertently be found in Speros' private business phone.

The last four numbers are 4747, which he insists were awarded without any prior thought that it was in 1947 that the Colts were founded. He ought to change the phone so the public can have access to the same 4747 number. It would be another demonstration of what tradition means and how the CFL wants a tie to Baltimore's glorious football past.

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