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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues Governing Bodies

          The NFL's new eight-year, $17.6B TV package was
     unanimously approved yesterday by league owners "who also
     were told to expect the player salary cap" to increase from
     $41.5M in '97 to between $53M to $55M for the '98 season,
     according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST.  The
     final cap amount "will be determined" when the league and
     its TV partners "settle on the payment schedule" for the
     first year of the deal, which "should be completed by the
     end of next week."  Owners were "clearly" in a "buoyant
     mood" in discussing the TV deal.  Afterward, Raiders Owner
     Al Davis said, "In the last contract, as soon as it was
     over, ABC and ESPN were sold to Disney for [$19.6B].  CBS
     was sold for [$6.5B].  One of the outstanding features of
     that difference was CBS not having the NFL.  When you see
     what Fox did (with football), we built that network"
     (WASHINGTON POST, 1/23).  Ravens Owner Art Modell: "Why
     should I be happy?  We are just going to give it all to the
     players, anyway."  In Boston, Will McDonough notes the
     increasing salary cap and adds, "It didn't take long to
     realize that Modell was on the money" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/23).
          ART HAS HIS: Modell admitted yesterday that the TV deal
     will make it tougher for cities to attain public funding for
     facility financing: "I think it'll be a long time before you
     see a publicly subsidized stadium again, even though most of
     the money goes to the players.  I wish I would say it's not
     so, but that's the case" (Vito Stellino, Balt. SUN, 1/23). 
     Modell, on Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, who is lobbying for
     public help on a new stadium: "Nobody can stand up now and
     say they need a new stadium and those new revenues in order
     to stay competitive. ... I think Pat has a good, sound
     position on needing a new stadium, but I don't know how
     politically inviting it will be for the city fathers to
     support it.  With this kind of money coming in, that's going
     to be an awfully tough sell."  In Denver, Bob Kravitz: "The
     sound you just heard?  That's Bowlen's jaw dropping to the
     pavement" (Bob Kravitz, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 1/23).
          TALKS OFF: In N.Y., Mike Freeman reports that the NFL
     and NFLPA "have reached an impasse" on a CBA extension and
     "both sides feel a pact won't be reached soon."  NFLPA Exec
     Dir Gene Upshaw: "Talks have broken off" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).
          NOTES: One of the NFL's int'l exhibition games will be
     played in Vancouver this year, on August 15, between the
     49ers and Seahawks (TORONTO SUN, 1/23)....The forecast for
     Sunday in San Diego is for mostly clear skies with a high
     near 70 (Mult., 1/23)....Bill Walsh contributes an op-ed in
     the N.Y. TIMES on the hiring of minority coaches in the NFL,
     writing that litigation will not solve the "problems of
     hiring in the N.F.L."  Walsh: "Those with the most influence
     have not necessarily been active addressing the social
     undercurrent. ... The reason is that most owners do not
     regularly come into contact with African-Americans other
     than to talk with them after a game" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23).

          The NHL "should consider" staging a game featuring the
     top 40 Canadian Hockey League prospects during its All-Star
     Weekend, according to Kostya Kennedy of SI.  Kennedy: "The
     NHL dreads the logistical nightmare of adding the CHL game
     to an already overstuffed weekend.  They're also afraid that
     the game might not draw fans in U.S. cities.  But if the
     game is packaged with the All-Stars skill competition,
     spectators will turn out" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 1/26 issue).

          Latrell Sprewell's arbitration hearing, which will
     begin next week in Portland, OR, is examined by Mike Wise of
     the N.Y. TIMES.  Sprewell has been in New York since Tuesday
     to "go over the legal brief" the NBPA has prepared and
     yesterday Wise spoke to him and members of his defense team. 
     The matter will be heard by Fordham Law School Dean John
     Feerick, and NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter referred to Feerick
     and said, "To what extent is he affected by public pressure? 
     I think the N.B.A. reaped a media bonanza on this thing,  
     and that's one of the reasons we haven't been able to
     settle.  It's been such a windfall for them that any step
     back would be interpreted as a retreat" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/23). 
     Sprewell told Peter Vecsey, "I realize what a big mistake I
     made."  But Sprewell added, "It's as if I'm another O.J.
     Simpson.  Yes, I was wrong, but I didn't kill anybody.  I'm
     not a double murderer" (N.Y. POST, 1/23).
          REF TROUBLE: SI's Jackie MacMullan reports that the
     Federal Government is "poised to indict as many as seven
     referees next month," with 15 still under investigation for
     allegedly downgrading NBA airline tickets, pocketing the
     money and failing to declare it.  MacMullan adds that a
     sampling of NBA coaches and GM's showed that most "agreed
     that the removal of seven refs would be disastrous" to the
     quality of officiating (SI, 1/26 issue).

          The IRL opens its season this weekend with the Indy 200
     at Walt Disney World Speedway, and Juliet Macur of the
     ORLANDO SENTINEL writes, "After two years of stumbling, the
     IRL hopes to show the racing world that it finally has
     weaned itself from [CART]."  IRL execs "expect the 50,000-
     seat grandstands to be almost full."  IRL Founder Tony
     George "expects this season to be the IRL's strongest yet." 
     The league has signed Pep Boys as its title sponsor, each of
     its 11 races will be broadcast live on network or cable TV
     and "for the first time, there will be drivers who will not
     automatically make it into the race because there are more
     drivers than there are starting spots."  George: "There is
     really no dialogue between CART and the IRL anymore.  Now
     we're focused on our product and they're focused on theirs"
     (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/23).  In Ft. Lauderdale, Richard
     Biebrich writes the IRL "is here to stay."  Biebrich:
     "Struggling since its first race in 1996 for an identity of
     its own, the IRL now has a major sponsor in Pep Boys and
     stars such as Tony Stewart" (SUN-SENTINEL, 1/23).  In
     Dallas, Holly Cain: "There are those who figured the [IRL]
     would just go away.  But corporate America has other ideas.
     ... The big-time involvement of a company such as Pep Boys
     sends a message that the series has arrived, whether you
     still question the competency of its drivers or the level of
     competition" (Holly Cain, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/22).