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AFTER THE MISTAKE BY THE LAKE, CLEVELAND GETS EXPANSION TEAM
Published March 24, 1998
When NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced last evening that the new Browns franchise will enter the league in '99 as an expansion team, the decision "caught many attending the league meetings by surprise," according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER. It "followed roughly one hour of discussion on the subject" by team owners and "concluded a down-and-up day that began with Cleveland officials fearing a delay." Speculation had the league "unprepared to commit to expansion this week," but the owners "retreated to their meeting room, and everything seemed to change." Finally, "no vote was taken, but no owner dissented" on the expansion decision. Tagliabue credited Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson for "leading the discussion on expanding and swaying owners." Steelers President Dan Rooney said Ravens Owner Art Modell also "played a prominent role." Grossi notes "two other surprises" in the announcement: The Browns' debut will come at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton against the Cowboys in August of '99; and Joe Mack, former Assistant GM of the Panthers, will be the Browns' Player Personnel Director (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 3/24). While no expansion fee has been finalized, some NFL owners "have already" floated a $350-$500M fee (Cleveland PLAIN-DEALER, 3/24). BURIED LEGACY: In Akron, David Adams writes the expansion decision ends "the chance of Cleveland getting a relocated team" and also "helps bury the painful legacy left behind by the abrupt 1995 decision by Art Modell to move his team to Baltimore." Modell: "I was one of the people who wanted to get this done" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/24). WHO WILL BE 32? Tagliabue said that the owners will hold talks today concerning the next round of expansion, mentioning L.A., Houston and Toronto as cities vying to be the 32nd team. In Toronto, Mike Zeisberger says Toronto's inclusion "caught everyone ... off-guard" as its chances "never had been put forward in this manner by Tagliabue" (TORONTO SUN, 3/24). In Houston, John Williams calls the decision "good news" for that city's bid, as had the league moved an existing team to Cleveland, "it was possible that league owners would not expand at all," as it would mean sharing TV revenues (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/24). Saints Owner Tom Benson, on future expansion: "Oh, man. You're looking at a few more years for those teams" (USA TODAY, 3/24).