State still talking to 3 teams, but it remains 4th-and-long shot

February 11, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

If there are NFL teams poised to move to Baltimore, you wouldn't know it to talk to them.

Supporters of Baltimore's 10-year quest to return to the National Football League say three teams are candidates for a move here: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and both Los Angeles teams, the Rams and Raiders.

At least two ownership groups have been in contact with at least two of the teams, and state officials have spoken with all three. Gov. William Donald Schaefer said there is "real strong activity" to win a team.

But doubters say the chances of a team moving here are slim. And spokesmen for the teams themselves downplay the talk of a move.

"The Bucs are not for sale," said a statement released yesterday by Stephen Story, a member of a trust set up to oversee the estate of Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, who is terminally ill.

The family intends to sell the team upon the death of Culverhouse, which has led to numerous inquiries from persons interested in buying the team. The club has been telling potential investors that the franchise is not for sale yet and that there are potential bidders in town when it does go on the block.

Among the people who have approached the team are representatives of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a group of Baltimore investors represented by local attorney Robert Schulman, and Malcolm Glazer, a Florida-based investor who unsuccessfully sought an expansion team for Baltimore.

But Angelos is exploring making another offer on the team, this time seeking to set up an arrangement whereby the sale would not be completed until after the owner's death, according to sources familiar with the plan.

Story's statement yesterday said: "Neither he nor Hugh Culverhouse have had any further contact other than one preliminary phone call several weeks ago, with Peter Angelos or other representatives of the effort to move an NFL team to Maryland."

The Rams have announced that they plan in May to invoke an escape clause in their lease with Anaheim Stadium that would allow them to leave 15 months later.

But, spokesman Rick Smith said, "We still haven't said we'll move."

Raiders owner Al Davis, who defied the NFL when he moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, was reportedly unhappy with his sky box-less stadium even before the recent earthquake left it badly damaged.

An engineering estimate of the cost of repair is not expected for another 10 days, said Raiders executive assistant Al LoCasale. "We need to see what the situation is with the Coliseum before we could make any plans related to the Coliseum," he said.

Davis, who spoke with Schaefer on the phone last week, has a track record of making dramatic moves, but he also has flirted with cities in the past only to spurn their offers.

In 1987, for example, he announced he was talking with the Los Angeles County town of Irwindale about moving there. The deal collapsed.

Three years later he announced plans to move back to Oakland, but that agreement unraveled in the face of public outrage over its cost to Oakland taxpayers.

Meanwhile, several other cities are seeking to lure one of thteams, including St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., which, along with Baltimore, were finalists in the NFL's expansion last year.

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