PALM DESERT, Calif. -- In the NFL, rules are made to be changed.
After three years of debate, the owners finally lifted their ban on cross-ownership by a 24-5-1 vote yesterday in the first major decision at the annual owners meeting.
But the proponents of bringing back instant replay to help decide some calls suffered a setback when New York Jets coach Bill Parcells, who isn't attending the meetings, told reporters on a conference call that he opposes the proposal.
Parcells objects to the provision that a coach would have to give up a timeout to challenge an official's call even if the challenge is upheld.
Although the vote was postponed until today, Parcells' vote would be the eighth against instant replay, enough to kill the proposal unless another team changes its mind.
Parcells said: "With the timeout tied to it, it's not equitable. As things stand now, we will be against it."
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said there was no plan to modify the proposal to meet Parcells' objections to losing the timeouts.
"I have a hunch it's not going to pass," Ravens owner Art Modell said.
He added, "In all the meetings we've had on replay, 14 suits have gone out of style."
The change in the cross-ownership rule will allow Wayne Huizenga, who owns baseball's Florida Marlins and the NHL's Florida Panthers, to retain ownership of the Dolphins without taking the NFL to court.
It also clears the way for Paul Allen, the owner of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, to buy the Seattle Seahawks if the city gets financing for a new stadium.
Huizenga bought the Dolphins in 1994 on the condition that he'd sell the team if the rule wasn't changed by 1996. That provision later was extended a year because more than eight owners opposed changing the rule.
Tagliabue finally got it passed yesterday when three teams -- Minnesota, Tampa Bay and New Orleans -- switched their votes.
Five teams -- Washington, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati and Buffalo -- remained opposed while Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders owner, abstained.
The key to getting the rule changed was Allen's promise to keep the team in Seattle if he gets stadium funding. Ken Behring, who is selling the team to Allen, tried to move it to Los Angeles last year and the league wants to keep a presence in the Pacific Northwest.
Even the opponents said they had no problem with Huizenga or Allen; they just thought it was better for the league to have its owners concentrating on football.
"Our vote wasn't anti-Allen or anti-Huizenga. We just feel the sporting attentions of an owner ought to be focused in on football. If you have a struggling franchise in another sport and you have it riding the coattails of the other in marketing, that bothers us. After all, we're in competition with the other professional sports," said Joe Schmidt, vice president of the Detroit Lions.
Modell voted in favor of the change. "I think it's good. Another step in the progress of the NFL. Dick Jacobs [the Indians' owner] could own the Cleveland Browns [when they start play in 1999]. Other sports have it and it doesn't seem to have damaged the NBA much or Major League Baseball," Modell said.
Dan Rooney, the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, favored it because he was the head of the expansion committee that helped bring Seattle into the league in 1976. "I think its time has come," he said. "We have a special interest in Seattle and I think it's very important we keep a team in the Northwest."
The owners continued the ban on corporate ownership in the NFL, but Schmidt said that rule also could be reviewed in the future. The league also conducted a coin flip between Arizona and Oakland for the ninth pick in the first round. Both teams had 7-9 records and their opponents also had identical records. Arizona won the flip and will pick ninth.
Pub Date: 3/12/97