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NFL officials meeting this week on the probable loss of Cleveland discussed a number of possible resolutions to the situation, but arrived at no consensus, according to the Baltimore SUN. The meetings included NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL President Neil Austrian and the Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, Chair of the NFL's Broadcast Committee, Saints Owner Tom Benson, Chair of the NFL Finance Committee, and Browns Exec VP James Bailey. Jon Morgan reports that among the options discussed were getting another team for the city, or passing a resolution demonstrating an intent to eventually move a team there, as the NFL did with L.A. The stadium and finance committees are scheduled to hold a joint meeting on January 4 to review the Browns' relocation application. Both the team and Cleveland Mayor Michael White will be given the opportunity to make presentations. The full NFL ownership vote on the matter is still scheduled for January 17 ( Baltimore SUN, 12/15). ALL EYES ON ART MODELL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL John Helyar profiles Browns Owner Art Modell's history in Cleveland and the decisions that led to the move in a front-page piece (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/15). ESPN's "Outside the Lines" presents a special on franchise movement tonight, live from Cleveland. ESPN's Bob Ley said Modell's attorneys prevented an interview. Also, the Akron BEACON JOURNAL reports NBC's Bob Costas will be in Cleveland for a pregame show Sunday from Modell's box (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 12/15). L.A. COLISEUM IS OUT: L.A. City Council President John Ferraro, who is also head of the Coliseum Commission, said he was told this week by NFL officials that the L.A. Coliseum will not be considered as a permanent venue for football, according to the L.A. TIMES. While Ferraro disagrees with the assessment, he thinks the city should move on rather than fight. He said he would support Dodgers Owner Peter O'Malley in his efforts to build a stadium and get a team. Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, Chair of the NFL Stadium Committee, has toured all L.A. stadium sites, including the Coliseum, and he says that if football is going to be successful in L.A., a state-of-the-art facility will have to be built. Richardson: "Los Angeles is a very special city, we have had good experiences there with Super Bowls, but it just doesn't make sense to go back with warmed over, renovated stadiums" (T.J. Simers, L.A. TIMES, 12/15).
The NHL Board of Governors voted yesterday to extend Gary Bettman's term as Commissioner. As part of their meetings in Palm Beach, FL, the Governors gave unanimous approval to the extension, the terms of which are to be negotiated. Board Chair Harley Hotchkiss: "There was a strong feeling among the Governors that we have exactly the right person running the National Hockey League. We wanted to make sure that Gary would be available to lead us into the next century." In a statement, Bettman noted the Board "initiated the discussion on an extension" (NHL). Bettman, in a conference call: "I love this game. I love this job. ... I'm not looking to do anything else" (THE DAILY). DETAILS TO COME: The TORONTO STAR reports the Board intends to give Bettman a five-year extension, which combined with his remaining two years would take him through February 2003. Bob McKenzie reports part of the reason was a "fear" that another league might hire Bettman away (TORONTO STAR, 12/15). Asked about potential term of the new deal, Hotchkiss noted they would want Bettman to stay through talks on a new CBA in 2000 and future TV negotiations in '98 and '99 (THE DAILY). Al Strachan notes the Exec Committee was "quick to point out that the initiative was with the governors. ... The owners rail against players who try to renegotiate, so it wouldn't look good to have their commissioner do it." Strachan cites "highly placed sources" who say Bettman's salary will be $2.5-3M (TORONTO SUN, 12/15). USA TODAY notes, "Presumably, Bettman would be looking to at least double his salary" -- presently over $1M per year (Kevin Allen, USA TODAY, 12/15). TOP ISSUES: In a conference call, Bettman outlined the issues discussed during yesterday's meetings. The Governors heard updates on the sale of the Stars and the relocation of the Jets to Phoenix, both of which are expected to gain approval at the league's January 19 meeting. There was also an update on the Panthers' situation. Bettman said while all options -- including relocation -- are being considered, their "preference" is to keep the team in South FL. Bettman: "My tolerance is lowering, my frustration level is raising." Asked to elaborate, Bettman said, "What we have in Florida is not a hockey problem. We have a building problem." Comsat's spin-off of its entertainment companies, including the Avalanche, into Ascent Entertainment, which launched a 20% IPO yesterday, was approved by the Board. On expansion, Bettman said consensus was to focus on stability of current franchises. Bettman: "Until we're comfortable that we have our house in order, there's no point in adding an addition or additions to our house. ... At some point we'll pursue it, but this is not the right time." Fox made a presentation on its plans for '96 coverage (THE DAILY). FOX'S "HERETIC": Fox Sports President David Hill's a presentation left the Governors "clearly awestruck," according to Tony Gallagher in Vancouver. Gallagher noted Hill's persistence on requesting the league go to four quarters and for other changes, including more special-event jerseys from teams (Vancouver PROVINCE, 12/15). In Ottawa, Roy MacGregor calls Hill's talk "more than a bit chilling, particularly for traditionalists" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 12/15). OTHER TOPICS: In Minneapolis, Jay Weiner reports that one Governor -- the Blackhawks' William Wirtz -- said the Twin Cities area "doesn't deserve a franchise" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/15). The N.Y. TIMES focuses on reports the Oilers may be the next team with financial problems that need to be addressed (Charlie Nobles, N.Y. TIMES, 12/15). The Canucks, Penguins, Mighty Ducks, Kings and Bruins will all unveil a third jersey after January 1. They debut on national TV broadcasts (CBC for the Canucks, Fox for the U.S. teams) and are "geared toward kids" (USA TODAY, 12/15).
Jud Perkins, NBA President of Events and Attractions, characterized the league as "satisfied" with the terms of a $200,000 rebate it will receive from the city of San Antonio over a dispute over facilities. The SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS reports the dispute came after the league discovered the city was tearing down HemisFair Arena, which the NBA had planned to use for part of its four-day Jam Session. The NBA estimates it will lose $350,000 by moving events such as All-Star and rookie game practice sessions from the 16,000-seat arena to a temporary 4,000 seat facility at the San Antonio Convention Center. The city had offered the HemisFair Arena to the league as part of its bid to host All-Star Weekend, but has since decided to expand its convention center in place of the HemisFair. The city still plans on profits of $10,400 from the Weekend despite the rebate, which will be given half in cash and half in credits (Jerry Briggs, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/15).