Officials of the United States Football League will meet today in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., to discuss allegations that George Allen, part owner and coach of the Chicago franchise, has violated league rules by trying to sign players whose rights are owned by other USFL teams.
"The competition committee and the coaches and George are going to try to work this out," said Dick Coury, coach and general manager of the New England franchise. "A lot of people are upset about it. George, or people representing him, are talking to players all over the place who don't belong to Chicago."
Chet Simmons, USFL commissioner, said yesterday he was aware that some members of his league were upset over Allen's actions. Simmons said he was investigating the allegations.
"I've heard a little bit about the unhappiness," he said, "but I haven't heard what the other side of the fence (Allen) has to say about it. Until I do, I'm not reaching any conclusions.
"There have been guidelines set by the league regarding how player rights are allocated. It's essential that every team recognizes and respects these rights or the violations will be dealt with."
Simmons said he has the authority to levy fines and/or to take away draft choices and players as a penalty for rule violations. He also said that every team in the league has a list that shows what players can be signed by each franchise under a complex allocation system.
A league source said that some teams are pushing strenuously to have Allen fined. "We've got to stop what he's doing right now," the source said.
Allen, reached in New Jersey, denied that today's meeting had been called to discuss allegations that he had violated league rules. He said it was a regular meeting of the competition committee.
He said the subject of signing players would likely be discussed, but "this is a new thing and nobody really understands it. I have players calling me because of who I am. They want to play for me."
This is not the first time Allen has been embroiled in a rules controversy.
When he coached the Washington Redskins, he had run-ins with the National Football League and some of its teams. He lost a breach of contract suit brought by the Chicago Bears in 1966 when he tried to jump to the Los Angeles Rams head coaching job. The Redskins were penalized in 1972 after Allen traded a draft choice that the team did not own. He was fined $3,000 in 1978 for publicly criticizing Edward Bennett Williams, president of the Redskins.
"Maybe George and his people are doing this inadvertently," Coury said, "I like George and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But Chet shouldn't have any problem investigating this. He has to have 10 complaints on his desk already.
"We've tried to set things up so the league will be as competitive as possible. But it makes it tough on everybody if you don't go by the rules. (Pete) Rozelle couldn't control George for 14 years. If we can somehow do it, we'll already be one step up on the NFL."
Coury was involved directly in one of Allen's alleged cases of tampering.
New England owns the rights to quarterback Greg Landry, who was released recently by Baltimore of the NFL. Coury said he and Allen discussed a trade for Landry's rights and then, according to Coury, "the next thing I know, somebody with his (Allen's) office has been in contact with Greg and is negotiating with him. (Allen signed Landry yesterday).
"I told George I'd like to be able to talk with my players before he does. Anyway, we worked out a trade. He got Greg and I got the rights to some players in return. It was semiabove board, which is pretty good for George."
Earlier, Allen signed tight end Tim Wrightman, a rookie from UCLA who had been drafted by the Chicago Bears. Wrightman's rights were owned by the USFL San Diego franchise. Simmons said yesterday that Allen had traded properly for Wrightman's rights, although league sources maintained the deal has never been announced and that it came after Wrightman signed with Allen.
The Tampa franchise confirmed yesterday that Allen had contacted wide receiver Danny Buggs, an ex-Redskin, although Tampa owns Buggs' rights. According to Tom Bland of Tampa, the club is close to signing Buggs "but we understand George has talked to him, too."
Irving Marks, Buggs' representative, said that Allen's office hadn't contacted him, but had contacted Buggs. "They are old buddies," Marks said, "but Tampa owns the rights to Danny. George has to play by the rules."
Coury said that the salaries that Allen is offering eventually could deter him, even if the league doesn't. Each USFL team has the same maximum for its total player payroll.
"Maybe it's our only hope, the way George is spending money," Coury said with a laugh. "It'll wind up our 11 players vs. his two."