Baltimore Colts owner Robert Irsay said today he felt certain that "at least 21" of the 28 National Football League owners would accept Jacksonville as the new home for his franchise.
Irsay did not make a commitment to the city, but said there will be things about the Colts discussed at the Oct. 28-29 meeting of team owners in Dallas.
Irsay took a whirlwind tour of Jacksonville, one of five cities vying to becoming the Colt's next home, and said, "anybody in his right mind has to be very pleased and enthused with this reception."
He was met at Jacksonville International Airport by Mayor Jake Godbold, City Council President David Harrell and other high ranking civic and business leaders, then was feted at a luncheon in the exclusive River Club.
Irsay was to meet later with Godbold and his legal and financial advisers to negotiate a list of preconditions Irsay has said must be met before he would move the Colts to Jacksonville.
The other cities Irsay is considering are Los Angeles, Phoenix, Indianapolis and Memphis.
One of the things Irsay is asking Jacksonville for is a guarantee of 65,000 season tickets for 10 years, something that Godbold said, "I think we can do, without using any taxpayers' money."
Asked if he had "given up" on Baltimore, Irsay said, "I think they gave up on me."
He said he had not heard from Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes for nine months and that if Hughes were to call him now, "I'm going to be busy."
Hughes said in Annapolis, Md., "We will be glad to do anything that is reasonable and proper to keep the team . . . I really don't know what Mr. Irsay means. I don't know what I am supposed to do. I've had no calls from him."
Hughes said he and Irsay had had a pleasant telephone conversation March 13 "and agreed that we should get together for dinner," Hughes said he has not heard from Irsay since.
Godbold presented Irsay with the keys to the city "that will let 70,000 people into the Gator Bowl every Sunday you play there," and Irsay was kissed by Miss Jacksonville and given a box of suntan lotion for his players by two girls dressed in sarongs.