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The WTA Tour announced that its newly-named CEO, Ric Clarson, has reversed his decision to take the post and will remain as VP/Tournament Business Affairs of the PGA Tour. Clarson had accepted the position on December 19 and was set to begin a four-year term on January 15 (WTA Tour). In a statement, Clarson said his "heightened awareness of certain issues within the organization has made me rethink my commitment and reconsider my acceptance of this position" (THE DAILY). WTA Tour Search Committee Board Member Bob Arrix said that Clarson "was aware of the challenges and opportunities of the job prior to accepting the position." Arrix went on to add that the Tour is hoping to have a CEO announcement by the end of the week (WTA Tour). THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON'T: In N.Y., Robin Finn called the news "an embarrassing setback for women's professional tennis." While Clarson did not make his reasons public, "there were indications" that they "had to do with his reluctance to uproot his family from Florida, as well as a reluctance to assume control of a sport that will be without a sponsor at the end of 1998, is limited by its $10 million operating budget and is beleaguered by a rift" within its Players Association (Robin Finn, N.Y. TIMES, 1/7). In FL, Laurie Casaday reports that Clarson's decision "was based" on the unsettled Board dispute, which he had the "understanding ... would be amicably resolved." Clarson said he "presented a proposal that would settle" the conflict, but "it was rejected" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/7). TWO PLAYERS? In CONDE NAST SPORTS FOR WOMEN, Andrea Leand reports that "potential suitors" for title sponsorship of the WTA Tour, "include two multinational electronics companies" (CONDE NAST SPORTS FOR WOMEN, 1/98 issue).
MLB's search for a commissioner "came into question" after Acting Commissioner Bud Selig "decided to cancel the regular quarterly meetings of owners scheduled for next week in Phoenix," according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Committee meetings will take place as originally scheduled, but the joint session will be called off, "mainly because there are no pressing items on the agenda." Haudricourt: "Despite that development, Selig insisted that the search for a new commissioner remained a priority." Rockies Chair Jerry McMorris, head of the commissioner search committee, had "originally hoped to present candidates for the commissionership" to the owners' ruling Exec Council next week but "acknowledged that the process was behind schedule" (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/7). In DC, Mark Maske reports that "the likelihood the Phoenix meeting will be canceled signals that the owners are still not prepared to move on the commissioner front." Maske adds that "many" MLB officials mention NL President Len Coleman as a "top internal candidate" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/7). VOTE ON DODGERS DELAYED: Selig told USA TODAY's Bodley & Antonen that no decision had been made on cancelling the meetings and that the "alternative is to cancel the joint meetings and hold committee meetings." Selig said a meeting of the Exec Council will be held regardless of any decision (USA TODAY, 1/7). In L.A., Mike Digiovanna adds that the move delays News Corp.'s proposed purchase of the Dodgers. The Exec Council "will meet, as will the ownership committee, and there's a strong possibility the latter will make a recommendation" on the sale. A "high-ranking" MLB official said the ownership committee "will have a long conversation about the Dodger sale ... and I don't expect it to fall through" (Mike Digiovanna, L.A. TIMES, 1/7). BEESTON'S BURDEN: MLB COO Paul Beeston is interviewed in BASEBALL AMERICA's "PowerBrokers" issue. Beeston, asked to assess his new position: "Right now, and I'm not embarrassed to say it, it's a much bigger job than I thought it was going to be, and it's more of a complicated job than I thought it was going to be" (BASEBALL AMERICA, 1/19).
The NFL announced that paid attendance for the '97 regular season was the second-highest total in NFL history. Fans purchased 14,966,294 tickets to the NFL's 240 regular- season games in '97, representing paid attendance at 90% capacity. This total was topped only by the 15,043,562 paid attendance record set in '95. The league increased paid attendance 353,877 from last season. The average regular- season attendance in '97 was 62,360, compared to 60,885 in '96, an increase of nearly 1,500 per game (NFL). For final AFC regular-season attendance, see (#29). LABOR GAINS? On CNBC's "The Edge," Barbara Monaco reported on the NFL's effort to extend its CBA with the NFLPA, and the impact that may have on its new TV deals: "The strategy for guaranteed labor peace is one that some analysts say could bring the NFL an extra $60 million increase in its TV contracts." SportsCorp.'s Marc Ganis: "[They're talking about] not just doing a four-year [TV] deal, but also adding two three-year options, potentially making it a ten-year deal. That raises the stakes for the networks to get in now." Pilson Communications' Neal Pilson: "To project seven years out creates some extraordinary financial risks, and I don't know if the networks are prepared to do that" ("The Edge," 1/6). TOP FIVE NFL REGULAR-SEASON ATTENDANCES YEAR ATTENDANCE GAMES AVERAGE 1995 15,043,562 240 62,682 1997 14,966,294 240 62,360 1996 14,612,417 240 60,885 1994 14,030,435 224 62,636 1993 13,966,843 224 62,352