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Volume 24 No. 156

Franchises

Those looking for "reassurances about the Rams' long-term viability in St. Louis got none Tuesday from club owner Stan Kroenke," according to Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. With the stadium lease issue "looming at the Edward Jones Dome, Kroenke was asked about the potential relocation of the franchise" at coach Jeff Fisher's introductory news conference yesterday. Kroenke said, "I think this is all out there. The chronology of what occurs with the lease is public knowledge. I think for me to comment on that process is particularly (un)timely. The city, or the (stadium) authority, they're dealing with their side of it. And they present a proposal to us by Feb. 1." He added, "There's a team in place that deals with all that. So we'll see how that process sorts itself out. But it's a thing that takes place over time." Thomas notes if the dome is "not deemed a 'first-tier' facility -- or among the top eight stadiums in the NFL -- the Rams are free to leave St. Louis following the 2014 season." Thomas: "What Rams fans want to know is, does Kroenke plan to be here for another 20 years?" Kroenke said, "We'll see how that process works out." He added, "Contrary to a lot of reports, I haven't taken a lot of 'jack' out of the market. I think that's what's reported. I have put a lot of 'jack' into the market" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/18). 

DAWN OF A NEW ERA: In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes the hiring of Fisher "could finally be the sort of news conference that does actually lead to championships rather than just another depressing semi-annual Q&A session with the local media." Burwell: "This is a head coach who walks in the room with that undeniable aura of importance and substance. ... You want to know who's in charge now at Rams Park? His name is Jeff Fisher. No question" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/18). The POST-DISPATCH's Thomas notes after signing his five-year contract, Fisher "quickly identified two main factors that would lead him to his next job." Fisher: "One was a good owner, and the other was a quarterback. ... My decision was very, very simple. It was based on the vision, the collective vision shared by Stan and [Exec VP/Football Operations & COO] Kevin [Demoff] as far as the future of the franchise." Fisher said yesterday that the "non-economic issues were more important than his salary in making his decision between" coaching the Dolphins and the Rams (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/18).

The Colts fired coach Jim Caldwell yesterday, and Owner Jim Irsay, in “collaboration with new general manager Ryan Grigson, decided a coaching change was required to provide his franchise different leadership and direction,” according to Mike Chappell of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The "housecleaning commenced" after the team finished the season 2-14. It began with the Jan. 2 firing of Vice Chair Bill Polian and VP & GM Chris Polian, and the Jan. 11 hiring of Grigson. A search for Caldwell's replacement “begins immediately” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/18). ESPN's John Clayton reported the Colts gave a "lot of consideration" to retaining Caldwell. However, he said, "When they looked at the 2-14 season, wanted to try to be credible for the fans, appease the local media, get that all together, they decided to make this change" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 1/17). SPN’s Chris Mortensen reported there were some "trial balloons sent up about what would the fan reaction be if they kept Caldwell." Mortensen: "I don’t think it played very well without a component of Steve Spagnuolo being a part of that staff. Maybe they didn’t think it would generate enough excitement, but I also think Jim Irsay sensed you’re turning a page. When you fire Bill Polian and his son Chris Polian, when you know there’s uncertainty about Peyton Manning, when you have the first pick in the draft and you’re not going to trade it, you’re turning the page” (“NFL 32,” ESPN, 1/17). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the move “indicates there’s a sea change with the Colts now” with the dismissal of Caldwell and Bill Polian. Kornheiser: “It means that Jimmy Irsay is going to be much more hands-on than he’s been before” ("PTI," ESPN, 1/17).

MOVING ON FROM MANNING? In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote the firing was “the right call,” but a “tough call, a close call.” Yesterday’s announcement suggested that the team has “moved on, emotionally if not physically and officially," from injured QB Peyton Manning. Kravitz writes if Manning “is coming back, my sense is you keep the old gang together.” But Irsay and Grigson “keep talking about ‘rebuilding’ and how this is a ‘new era,’” which “sound a lot more like” prospective No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck than Manning (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/18). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said the new coach is going to have a “big role in the decision coming early March or sooner whether or not” Manning remains with the Colts (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 1/17). FOXSPORTS.com’s Alex Marvez writes the “only task remaining for Irsay is formulating a way to avoid a Green Bay/Brett Favre fiasco by letting Manning leave the franchise as gracefully as possible” (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/18). However, CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, "I’m not sure whether firing Jim Caldwell has anything to do with Peyton Manning as some people are trying to connect.” The issue with Manning is “going to be a financial decision” ("Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 1/17).

TAKING THE REINS: In Indianapolis, Phil Richards wrote Grigson’s new role is “a huge job for a 39-year-old first-time general manager succeeding a legend in Bill Polian,” but those who know him “promise he will be a selfless warrior whose only priority is the team.” Grigson admitted that he “has little experience working with the salary cap,” but he said that he “will learn and in the meantime, lean on Colts front office personnel who do” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/17).

Steelers President Art Rooney II said yesterday that his father and team Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney is "expected to leave his post as U.S. ambassador to Ireland sometime this year," according to Wereschagin & Brown of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Despite his age and the distance involved, the 79-year-old Rooney has "attended Steelers games throughout his ambassadorship." His attendance has "grown more regular this year, and included the Steelers' AFC playoff loss in Denver." Art Rooney II said of his father's role with the franchise, "I think he'll come back and be a key player, let's put it that way" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/18). President Barack Obama was "said to be seeking to have Rooney back in time to help with his re-election given the impact he had the last time" (IRISH TIMES, 1/18).

TO-DO LIST: Art Rooney II said that the Steelers are in the "beginning stages of prioritizing a lengthy offseason to-do list." In Pittsburgh, Scott Brown notes the "biggest question facing the Steelers is what the salary cap will allow them to do -- and what it may force them to do." The Steelers are "approximately $25 million over the salary cap, and they aren't counting on a spike in what teams are allowed to spend in 2012." Rooney said that the team has "been told the cap limit won't significantly rise; it was just over $120 million last season." He said, "It's probably as big an issue as we've had to face" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 1/18). Also in Pittsburgh, Ed Bouchette notes the Steelers will "add 3,000 seats to Heinz Field after the 2012 season." They will be in the open end zone, where the temporary seats were "installed for the Penguins' Winter Classic." The Steelers will turn to "their season-ticket waiting list to sell them" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 1/18).

NHL Rangers Owner James Dolan in a "rare, impromptu news conference" yesterday said that he "feels his Blueshirts are closing in on the Stanley Cup," according to Katie Strang of ESPN.com. Dolan after the Rangers' 3-0 win over the Predators said, "I'm very proud of the organization. I'm particularly proud of [GM Glen] Sather because all the way back to 2004 when things weren't going so well and we had a lot of free agents here and we decided to basically re-do the strategy, Glen and I made a pact." He added, "For me it's all about the system he built. Of course [it's] great coaching, but it's about the farm system, the scouting system and the development -- going with kids -- and sticking with that philosophy even at times when it didn't look so good. So, I'm very proud of him and the organization." Dolan had "not addressed the Rangers media since the 2005-06 season." After his comments, Rangers coach John Tortorella "good-naturedly" replied, "I have my owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That's a bunch of bull----" (ESPN.com, 1/17). On Long Island, Steve Zipay notes Dolan "stunned Tortorella, standing near the podium, by saying he believed the team was close to winning the Cup." After Dolan departed, Tortorella turned to the media and said, "I'm just as shocked as you guys are" (NEWSDAY, 1/18).

Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and the team's ownership group yesterday announced the acquisition of the AFL Cleveland Gladiators from Jim Ferraro, according to Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Terms of the deal were “not disclosed,” but the Cavaliers are now “the sole owner.” Cavs President Len Komoroski said, “We're bullish on the AFL and the Gladiators. We think the AFL is an incredibly dynamic product, and we're in this for the long haul." He added, “This is another example of Dan Gilbert's commitment to Northeast Ohio.” Gilbert's group also owns the AHL Lake Erie Monsters and the NBA D--League Canton Charge. Last season, the Gladiators “won the East Division but generated minimal buzz.” Many home crowds totaled “no more than several thousand.” The Galdiators "will move their offices" to Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/18). In Akron, George Thomas notes former Browns QB Bernie Kosar “will continue to serve in his role as a special adviser to the organization, a move that makes sense given the friendship he shares with Gilbert” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 1/18).

FRANCHISES OWNED BY DAN GILBERT
LEAGUE TEAM
NBA D-League Canton Charge
AHL Lake Erie Monsters
NBA Cleveland Cavaliers
AFL Cleveland Gladiators

 

In San Jose, Sean Webby notes on the secondary ticket market, prices "are skyrocketing to meet a frenzied demand" for Sunday's Giants-49ers NFC Championship game, with the average price at $610.23. 49ers Dir of Corporate Communications Steve Weakland said, "I don't know anyone in the organization who hasn't been hit up for tickets." Tiqlq Dir of Data & Corporate Communications Chris Matcovich said that the "costliest seat for the Patriots-Ravens game is about $2,895." The price for the best expensive seat for the Giants-49ers game is "reportedly going for $10,000" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/18). Meanwhile, a S.F. CHRONICLE editorial is written under the header, "49ers' Ugly Fan Element." The editorial: "We received four letters from Saints fans who detailed intimidating encounters" during last Saturday's NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park. Saints fans "were not the only ones to be disturbed by the ugly undercurrent at Saturday's game." It is a "shame that a blend of alcohol, testosterone and absence of rationality can cause a few hooligans to ruin the Candlestick experience for others" (SFGATE.com, 1/18).

SEEKING NEW CHALLENGES: Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins, who will be "stepping down from his post," said, "We’ve created the stadium, it’s doing great; the business of the team is doing great; we’ve settled into our practice facility. And I feel like a culture of innovation and transparency is part of our DNA and is going to continue when I move on. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, and when that happens, you start looking around and saying, ‘What’s my next challenge?'" (NJ.com, 1/17). 

GOING ALL IN: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino notes new Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan "promised a bright future to an enthusiastic crowd of 6,789 fans during a pep rally at EverBank Field on Tuesday night that was billed as the start of the rebirth" of the team. Khan said, "We're going to have a lot of fun together and we're going to win together." He said that with every "fiber in his body, he is committed to put a winning team on the field and bringing a Super Bowl to Jacksonville and said the fans should hold him accountable." Khan: "There's no doubt Jacksonville has the best fans in the NFL." He said that he "wanted to make the game-day experience the best in the NFL and he said that included a better wireless network for fans who want to use social media at the games and more screens with no ads running on them." Khan also said that the team "would spend to the salary cap." Meanwhile, Stellino notes yesterday's "festivities included a mustache contest" in honor of the new owner (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/18).

U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff ruled yesterday that the "likelihood that the owners of the Mets will go to trial to defend themselves against a multimillion-dollar lawsuit involving their dealings with Bernard L. Madoff is very real," and "not very far off." Rakoff "made it clear that the trial date he set months ago -- March 19 -- remained fixed." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes there "seems to be little rationale for either side to settle at this point." With the Mets "in financial distress," Owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz "appear poorly positioned to agree to a sizable payment." A trial "is a near certainty," and "could take at least four weeks." Fox Rothschild Partner Michael Kline said, "The Wilpons will be having their personal and financial lives exposed for weeks" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18).

TAKING STOCK: In Montreal, Mike Boone notes Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson yesterday answered "questions about his team's star-crossed season" at the opening of an outdoor hockey rink in Hayward Park. Molson acknowledged it has been "a disappointing season so far." He characterized the Canadiens' season to date as "soft, underperforming." He added, "If the second half is anything like the first half, it will be a disappointment for everybody." However, Molson "reaffirmed his support" of interim coach Randy Cunneyworth and GM Pierre Gauthier, and said that a "thorough evaluation of the team will come at the end of the season." He said that he had "'learned a lot' from the firestorm that erupted after [former coach Jacques] Martin was sacked and replaced by Cunneyworth, a unilingual anglophone." Molson said, "As a family, that's been part of this community for 225 years, we certainly understand Quebec culture. There is no question that we support French and English. There is no question that we respect our fans and the culture of Quebec" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/18).

ON THE PROWL: USA TODAY's J. Michael Falgoust in a sports section cover story writes T'Wolves Gs Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea, F Derrick Williams and coach Rick Adelman "have given hope to a Timberwolves team that had won 32 games over the past two seasons." The T'Wolves, with "sellouts in three of seven home games, are 14th in attendance entering today's game" against the Pistons. They ranked "24th in average attendance last season." In 82 home games the last two seasons, the team "sold out twice." With "8,000 season tickets sold this season, the franchise has its largest base since 2005-06, before Kevin Garnett left" for the Celtics (USA TODAY, 1/18).