Andy Dolich resigned as general manager of the Washington Diplomats yesterday, abandoning a team that will cease to exist Monday at noon unless a buyer materializes in the next four days.
Madison Square Garden Corp., owner of the 7-year-old franchise, will "voluntarily terminate" on Monday by turning over its certificate of ownership to North American Soccer League Commissioner Phil Woosnam.
Steve Danzansky, Diplomat president, is trying to persuade Woosnam to extend the deadline.
"There's no way to extend the deadline unless the league's owners all got together and voted to extend it," Woosnam said yesterday. "I don't think that's likely. Right now all we can do is hope that someone comes out of the woodwork to save this franchise. It's worth saving."
Dolich, who had accepted a job as vice president of business operations for the Oakland A's, had been working with Danzansky to assemble a group that would purchase the team from the Garden. When it became apparent there was little interest in a team whose losses total about $6 million over the last two years, Dolich took the baseball job.
"I had to take something with more security," Dolich said. "I couldn't see myself starting over. And with what has happened with the Diplomats, we've definitely suffered a credibility setback.
"Madison Square Garden is talking with two or three different groups and I still think there will be a team of some kind in Washington next year. This is a shame, though, because we came so far this year."
If the team does fold, the league could award an expansion franchise to Washington next season, one that would presumably operate with a much tighter budget than the one the Dips have worked with in the two years the Garden has owned the team.
Woosnam, who has often said he considers a Washington franchise crucial to the NASL, met with Danzansky in New York yesterday to look for a last-minute solution.
"When I look at this league, I see four or five really successful franchises and Washington is one of them. It should be right in there with New York, Tampa Bay, Minnesota," Woosnam said. "I can't believe there isn't anyone who wants to take over this franchise. Look at the progress it's made.
"This whole thing has shocked me.I thought we would have this situation wrapped up by this time. Now, unless someone comes out of the woodwork in the next four days, the team won't exist after Monday."
If the team is folded, the players will be auctioned off to the remaining 23 NASL clubs, with the exception of Johan Cruyff, whose contract becomes property of the Cosmos Dec. 1 unless a $400,000 payment is made to that club.
Danzansky, who has been president of the team for six years under two owners, said he has been contacted by many people in the last two weeks, but none is willing as yet to risk money on a franchise operating heavily in the red.
"What we need is someone or some group with a lot of faith in Washington and a lot of faith in soccer," Danzansky said. "That's tough to find when people are aware of what the losses have been.
"The thing I've tried to point out is that you don't have to operate the franchise the way Madison Square Garden did. You can run it like a Seattle or a Tulsa, spend a lot less money but still have a very successful franchise."
Woosnam plans to be in Washington today for a last pitch to these people who have expressed interest in buying the team. However, both he and Danzansky conceded they were making last-ditch efforts.
"People are scared off by the numbers," Woosnam said. "They shouldn't be, though. A new owner might have to make some harsh decisions in terms of saving money but it has been proven in the past in this league that you can do that and still be a success."
Sonny Werblin, Garden chairman, and Jack Krumpe, executive vice president, have remained in the background. They have said all along that they would accept any offer that would erase the $913,000 they still owe San Juan Racing Inc. from the purchase price of $1.1 million two years ago. s
"If no one buys the team from us by Monday at noon, we will voluntarily terminate," Krumpe said yesterday. "We don't really have much choice."
The Diplomats are completing a nine-game tour of the Far East, where they have a 5-1-1 record. They are due back in the country Tuesday. Barring a miracle, they will return as soccer players without a team.
"This is one of the top five franchises in our league," Woosnam said. I never really believed we might lose it. Now, I just don't know. It certainly doesn't look good."