Manchester United Lands Richest Kit Deal Ever Lions Owner William Clay Ford Passes Away Sights & Sounds From SXSW FiveThirtyEight Website To Launch March 17 ESPN To Air Series On U.S.' Prep For World Cup Cowboys Mount Huge AT&T Letters On Stadium Concussion-In-Sports Doc Makes U.S. Debut Stars Attend UNC-Duke Game Briefs Ganassi Salutes Target For 25-Year Relationship
SBD/Issue 81/FranchisesPrint All
Gores' Deal With Karen Davidson Would
Include Pistons, Palace Of Auburn Hills
Platinum Equity Chair & CEO Tom Gores "appears close to winning the topsy-turvy bidding war" for the Pistons, according to Walsh & Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. Sources said that the deal could close as early as this week, though Gores "has 30 days to finalize the deal" with Pistons Owner Karen Davidson. The price "likely will be significantly below" the $479M value that Forbes magazine placed on the Pistons in '09, but it is "still a valuable franchise package ... because it includes two of the Detroit region's top concert venues, DTE Energy Music Theatre and the Palace of Auburn Hills." While "nothing is certain, it is possible that Gores and Davidson could move quickly to conclude a deal, because most of the due diligence number-crunching was done many months ago and there should be few surprises at this point." If completed during the negotiating window, it "could be on the April agenda" for NBA approval. It is "possible" that late Pistons Owner Bill Davidson's son Ethan "may retain a small ownership stake when the team is sold" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/8). In Detroit, Krupa & Goodwill reported Karen Davidson "attended practices on Thursday and Friday, which is unusual." She "appeared ebullient, but declined comment on the sale of her team" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/8).
McCourt Requested The Three-
Day Meetings At MLB Offices
Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt last week met for three days with MLB execs as Commissioner Bud Selig "considers options that could complicate McCourt's ability to remain in control of the team," according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Sources said that McCourt met with "several of Selig's lieutenants -- but not with the commissioner himself -- from Monday through Wednesday" at MLB HQs in N.Y. The sources noted that McCourt "requested the meetings," during which he "outlined his legal and financial plans for retaining control of the Dodgers, amid divorce proceedings that started 15 months ago." Shaikin noted it is "uncertain exactly what McCourt proposed in his meetings, but he could get hundreds of millions of dollars by either negotiating a new television contract with Fox or selling a minority share of the Dodgers, then using the proceeds to settle his divorce." However, McCourt has said that he "has no plan to sell any share of ownership," and Selig "could reject any television contract or partnership agreement." One source indicated that after court documents in the divorce trial "revealed how the McCourts diverted millions in team revenue each year for personal use, Selig could cite grounds that such money should be used to improve the team rather than to pay off an ex-wife." The sources added that Selig also "could refuse McCourt the short-term financing available to owners from MLB." An MLB team owner said that he "doubted Frank McCourt could rally other owners behind him -- and against Selig -- should the commissioner decide to act." The owner added, "I can't imagine one vote going against Bud on anything having to do with the Dodgers" (L.A. TIMES, 1/8). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote the meetings are a "big deal, because while MLB cannot force him to sell directly, the other owners can essentially cut off his financial lifelines by not agreeing to his efforts to raise cash [and] squeeze out McCourt as the Dodgers' owner" (ESPN.com, 1/8).
WAITING ON DECK? In N.Y., Thompson & Madden cited sources as saying that former Dodgers manager Joe Torre "made overtures to Selig last summer about forming his own ownership group to buy the Dodgers should the McCourts be forced to sell the team." It is "unclear how the McCourt situation will be resolved but it could drag on indefinitely," so "depending on what happens to the team's ownership situation, Torre might be interested in a higher position with the Dodgers" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). Torre reportedly is also in talks to take a position in MLB's league office (THE DAILY).
Jim Harbaugh Cited Jed York's Vision For 49ers
As A Reason He Signed With Franchise
After signing Stanford Univ. coach Jim Harbaugh to a five-year, $25M deal Friday, "suddenly the 49ers are serious," and Jed York is a "real team president," according to a front-page piece by Scott Ostler of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The 49ers "attracted, pursued and hired the hottest coach on the market." Harbaugh is "way too smart to leave a great situation like he had at Stanford unless he has faith in" York and GM Trent Baalke. Until the 49ers signed Harbaugh Friday, the "conventional wisdom was that York had erred by promoting Baalke ... instead of hiring a seasoned GM." But York and Baalke "must have flashed some brilliant salesmanship, charm, sincerity and football knowledge" to lure Harbaugh (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8). In San Jose, Mark Purdy wrote, "As of now, Jed York is no longer a kid. ... Not after he ended a week of speculation and wild Internet piranha feeding by pulling off the one thing that many people were wondering if York could accomplish: He hired Jim Harbaugh, the hottest coaching commodity in football." York "definitely grasps why some 49ers fans were skeptical" about whether he could sign Harbaugh. York: "It was obviously a stressful week. ... I'm 29 years old, Trent's a first-time general manager. People are going to have questions. And we haven't done anything yet. It's time to get to work." York also "deferred credit." York: "Trent is the guy I hired, and Trent was the guy who hired Jim." Purdy noted York still "played an important role in the lengthy meeting with Harbaugh" on Wednesday. Baalke "did 90 percent of the 49ers' talking during the interview." York "sat in on the whole discussion -- and spoke up only when talking about the big picture." Harbaugh: "Jed talked about his vision. It was productive. ... That sealed the deal." York admitted that he "leaned on his uncle, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., for guidance during the process" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/8).
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING: In S.F., David White noted Baalke "not only landed the No. 1 coach on his hiring wish list Friday, but he did it while maintaining all the personnel power vested in him when 49ers President Jed York handed him the keys to the football side of the franchise three days earlier." Baalke: "It was important for me to be able to make those decisions. Somebody has to be responsible for making the final decisions." Baalke is the "one with control over the 53-man roster written into his contract, not Harbaugh," and he "has more power than his predecessor, Scot McCloughan." But he "backed away from any attention Friday by emphasizing that all decisions are made by way of collaboration." He is "big on feedback and consensus building, and small on schmoozing and socializing." Baalke "had no problem with York sitting in on his six-hour job interview with Harbaugh" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/8). CSNBAYAREA.com's Matt Maiocco noted Harbaugh "never asked for control of 49ers' personnel decisions." Baalke said of Harbaugh, "Philosophically, we're very much the same -- offensively and defensively. The type of players he's looking for are the same type of players I'm looking for. And if there's a decision that one of us don't agree on, the way I've always operated in the past is if we can't come to a consensus on that player, we move on" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 1/7).
STRUCTURE NEEDED: The SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS' Purdy wrote it "will be important" for the 49ers and Baalke "to create structure around Harbaugh." The coach "has a loopy bent," and he "had a reputation at Stanford for being abrupt and demanding with athletic department employees" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/9). KCO-AM Sports Dir Rich Walcoff said Baalke "will do the grunt work, he'll do the leg work and come to Jim and say, 'Here's what I think. What do you think?" Walcoff: "I think there's ... maybe a deference that Baalke will show to Harbaugh, because ultimately you want to make this guy happy." But the S.F. Examiner's Glenn Dickey said he did not believe that Baalke would be first in command with Harbaugh answering to him. Dickey: "You have to put up the appearance the General Manager's in charge ... but I just don't believe Jim Harbaugh is going to step back and say, 'Okay, you pick the 53 guys I'm going to have'" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1/7).
PR WIN: ESPN L.A. Managing Editor Eric Neel said hiring Harbaugh is a "win for the Niners." Neel: "They declared their intentions, to not get the guy would have been a hit from a morale standpoint, a PR standpoint and 'where do they go now' standpoint." Harbaugh at one point was rumored to be considering the Dolphins' coaching job, and ESPN's Jim Rome said, "Frisco is a better option than Miami. Not that the 49ers don’t have an issue or two of their own, but they're not the dysfunctional outfit that the Dolphins are" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/7).
SKIRTING THE ROONEY RULE? In S.F., Zennie Abraham wrote the 49ers talking to Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and ESPN Radio 101.1 St. Louis Rams analyst Tony Softli for head coach and GM positions, respectively, "then picking the people they really wanted in Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke looks like tokenism." Abraham: "Using blacks as token candidates is just plain sad. I think the Rooney Rule needs to be improved. I'm not sure it's taken seriously by some teams" (SFGATE.com, 1/8).
Ross Admitted He Did Not Inform Sparano
Before Meeting With Jim Harbaugh
Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross on Saturday "expressed regret for the way in which he conducted his business during a bizarre, unforgettable week," according to Jeff Darlington of the MIAMI HERALD. Ross led a 40-minute "roundtable discussion with a limited group of media at the team's facility, at which time he provided an overdue dose of transparency that outlined the details of his mishandled exploration for a new head coach." Ross and Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland last week interviewed then-Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, but Ross said that he "never told" Dolphins coach Tony Sparano about the meeting. Ross: "Not until after I read the newspapers did I realize the anguish I'd put Tony through. I'm not familiar with going through this process, but I never thought it would be national news. I was a little naive. Looking back, I can tell you I shouldn't be talking to any coaches, seeking a replacement, until I've decided that I needed to make a change." He added, "Everything I did was because I wanted a winner, just like the fans do. Would I go about it differently, having been here once before? Yeah, I'd go about it differently." Ross clarified that former Chiefs President, CEO & GM Carl Peterson, his friend, "did not attend the trip to California" to interview Harbaugh, as had been widely reported. Peterson "remains strictly a business friend, but he has no say in football input for the Dolphins" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/9). Ross and Ireland both admitted that they "made several blunders last week, especially in their lack of communication with Sparano." Ireland said, "There's no doubt in my mind, the lines of communication should have been handled differently" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/9).
TRYING TO MOVE ON: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino cited a Dolphins source as saying that the team has extended Sparano's contract "two years, through 2013." His $2.8M annual salary "is believed to remain in the same range, and he will also have an 'expanded role' in player personnel decisions" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/8). ESPN.com's Tim Graham wrote the Dolphins "will go through a healing process in the coming months." Team officials "need to set aside their differences and get ready to evaluate prospects at the Senior Bowl and then the NFL scouting combine." They will "need to work together through free agency," and also be "on the same page at the draft." Graham: "The Dolphins fully expect to move past this. But so often these fractured relationships simply don't have a happy ending" (ESPN.com, 1/8).
OUT OF HIS LEAGUE: In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes under the header, "Naive Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Runs Team Like Starstruck Fan." Ross seems "uncommonly starstruck for a billionaire with access to powerful people in all walks of life." As good a coach as Sparano "may eventually demonstrate himself to be, he'll never have the crackle of celebrity." He never will be the "straw that stirs the drink, or the center of cocktail party conversation at Ross' Palm Beach mansion" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/10). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "The Dolphins are worse than an NFL laughingstock right now. ... The Dolphins are national clowns for the nincompoop bungling of the coaching situation by Ross" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/9). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda wrote, "A once-proud NFL brand is in tatters. The Dolphins, despite their most recent failings and almost 40 years without a Super Bowl title, long have been one of sports' signature franchises. Now, it's dysfunctional" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/8). ESPN L.A. Managing Editor Eric Neel said, "They're left with nothing except a bad reputation. Sparano ends up looking good and they look like a mess" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/7). In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote Ross has "embarrassed the Miami Dolphins, his coach, his fans, and himself" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/7). On Long Island, Bob Glauber wrote under the header, "What Is Ross Thinking?" (NEWSDAY, 1/8).
WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES: In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote Ross made "some missteps, sure," but as the "truth spilled into a boardroom at Dolphins headquarters Saturday, the overriding emotion was an uneasy one about why this story became so coast-to-coast big at all." Ross "made mistakes" last week, but they "didn't belong in bold type." Hyde: "The real problem Ross had is that nothing in any business tycoon's background prepares him for owning a sports team. Nothing. ... So cut Ross some slack, if you have it in you. He learned a lesson about being a sports owner this week. A hard lesson" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/9). ESPN's Cris Carter: "This is ... a case where we see billionaires who have been very, very successful in other businesses, they come into this business -- this business is totally different. But, you can write a check to cover up for your mistakes" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/9).
Broncos Have Earned 332 Consecutive Sellouts,
But Invesco Field Had Empty Seats In '10
While the Broncos remain Denver's "flagship franchise, there are cracks in the foundation," according to Jim Armstrong of the DENVER POST. Attendance declines in other NFL cities "have been offset by record-setting television ratings," but in Denver, the Broncos' TV ratings "have plunged, though their games remain far and away the most watched weekly program in the market during the fall." The Broncos averaged a 23.8 local rating for their games this season, and the numbers "nosedived" during the final three games with 20.1, 14.4 and 19.0 ratings. The 23.8 average rating is down from a 41.6 local rating in '98, the team's last Super Bowl season. The Broncos have 332 consecutive home sellouts despite missing the playoffs in five consecutive seasons, though "thousands of empty seats were commonplace this season" at Invesco Field at Mile High. When fans "aren't using their tickets, or watching on TV, a franchise knows it has problems." Broncos President Joe Ellis said of the declines, "They're significant, no question. We have to show the TV audience here, the casual fan if you will, a better product. ... We can't take for granted that we're going to sell out and continue to have tremendous crowds." The Broncos "typically experience a 1 percent to 3 percent attrition rate among season-ticket holders," and Ellis "projects similar numbers this year." Ellis: "We've kind of hit rock bottom." Armstrong noted the Broncos, "like most NFL teams, have worked to enhance the game-day experience." They are "running more highlights and fantasy league information in their video boards," and they "provided some season-ticket holders" with FanVision this season (DENVER POST, 1/9).
JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED? In Denver, Anthony Cotton wrote last week's announcement that John Elway will return to the Broncos as Exec VP/Football Operations "has certainly jazzed up a region eager to make sure the moribund seasons of the past few years are not repeated." But while Elway was "one of the greatest on-field leaders of all time, questions have been raised about his ability to quarterback the team from the executive offices." Some of those questions "stem from the fact that Elway's experience running a team has been limited to football's minors, the idled Arena Football League." Others "point to a personal business background that has scored some touchdowns -- but has suffered from a number of painful sacks too." Tim Schmidt, Elway's partner in a pair of steakhouses, said, "The Broncos are a brand just like a restaurant and a car dealership, and no one understands that brand better than John Elway. ... He knows building that brand is about getting the customer base excited about the Denver Broncos again" (DENVER POST, 1/9). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "Anyone who had any questions as about how extensive John Elway's powers will be in Denver needs to only look where his office is. Elway took the oversized office that once belonged to Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 1/8). Meanwhile, the DENVER POST's Jim Armstrong wrote under the header, "Marketing For Denver Pro Sports Teams A Highly Competitive Business" (DENVER POST, 1/9).
LOOKING FOR A COACH: In Denver, Jones & Legwold report the Broncos are scheduled to interview former Panthers coach John Fox today for their vacant coaching job and are "scheduled to meet" later in the week with Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. The team also is "expected to request permission to speak" to Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (DENVER POST, 1/10). NFL Network's Michael Lombardi reported a "lot of people that I've talked to around the league are concerned about John Elway's inexperience" in regards to the hiring process. Lombardi: "It's going to limit the guys that he can bring in" ("NFL Gameday Morning," NFL Network, 1/9).
In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty wrote Bengals President Mike Brown is an “interesting, pleasant guy,” but he “has made a mess of his football team, in every way but financially.” Daugherty: “Now, it’s worse than ever.” Brown held a press conference last Tuesday to announce signing coach Marvin Lewis to a two-year contract extension, and Daugherty wrote, “What could have been a 30-minute infomercial for a brand new day was instead a dirge to same ol’, same ol’. … Is there another city in the country where any pro sports team is viewed with such absolute dislike as the Bengals are here?” Daugherty continued, “Time to change. Time to expand the scouting staff. Time to engage the community in something beyond enforcing your legal entitlements. Time to show your generous and engaging side” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 1/8).
COMING BACK WITH A ROAR: Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton and Touchdown Jacksonville Chair Carl Cannon in a special to the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION wrote, “We would like to thank the community for the incredible support of our NFL team the Jacksonville Jaguars, this past season. … We want to recognize and give a special thanks to Team Teal Commissioner Tony Boselli for his tireless efforts to inspire and motivate.” Peyton & Cannon: “During a season where the NFL experienced the most blackouts of any season across the country, Jacksonville fans stepped up and supported their team, filling the stadium for every game and exceeding every other NFL team in new season ticket sales” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/9).
HOLDING STEADY: Lions officials Friday announced that “ticket prices for the 2011 season will not increase.” The Lions “reduced the price on approximately 19,000 season tickets before this season,” and the team said that it will “continue that pricing through the 2011 season.” The Lions' “last ticket increase came” before the ’08 season, when they finished 0-16. The team in ’10 “led the NFL in attendance percentage increase,” up 13.9% at Ford Field compared to ’09 (DETROIT NEWS, 1/8).