Almost two years from the date they rejected Baltimore's expansion application, NFL owners will vote Nov. 7 on whether to guarantee the city a team.
The league's stadium committee agreed to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's request that the matter be put before the 30 team owners. Getting it passed, however, could be a different matter, and even the man charged with trying to bring a team to Baltimore says he is not terribly optimistic.
The committee, headed by Carolina Panthers owner and former Baltimore Colt Jerry Richardson, has not made a recommendation on whether the extraordinary proposal should be accepted or rejected.
"That reinforces my inclination not to get too excited about it," said John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
However, he said, he is in discussion with several teams interested in moving here and has more hope for that process.
The proposed resolution, faxed to teams on Friday, will be raised at the league's Nov. 7 owners meetings in Dallas.
On Nov. 30, 1993, the league picked Jacksonville, Fla., for the second of the two expansion franchises awarded that year. The other team went to Charlotte, N.C., a month earlier.
"The key point is the stadium committee is not recommending that it be approved, but that it be considered by the full membership," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
"The purpose of the resolution is to provide a framework for a full-membership discussion of the league's future in Baltimore and surrounding areas," Aiello said.
Dan Rooney, president of the Pitts burgh Steelers and a member of the stadium committee, said the league recently asked whether he objected to having owners vote on the matter.
"As far as getting the opinion of everybody in the league, fine. Let's see what they say, fine," Rooney said.
Rooney wouldn't say what his position is.
The proposed resolution reads: ". . . . the membership hereby approves a request by the Governor of Maryland that the NFL commit to the State of Maryland to locate an NFL franchise in a proposed new football-only stadium in Baltimore."
Passage of the resolution would be an unprecedented step for a league that jealously guards its role in determining where franchises play.
Glendening, in a Sept. 1 letter sent to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, requested a legally binding resolution committing the NFL either to relocate an existing franchise or award an expansion franchise to Baltimore.
In return, Glendening said he would maintain the funding mechanism that has been established for building a $200 million stadium downtown.
Glendening has said he wants a commitment from a team to move to Baltimore by the end of the year or he will begin taking steps to deauthorize the funding, which was put in place at the same time the money was allocated to build Camden Yards.
The stadium funding cannot be revoked without a vote of the General Assembly, which meets from mid-January through mid-April, and the signature of the governor.
Sen. John Pica, chairman of the Baltimore delegation, has threatened to filibuster such a measure.