Chet Simmons, commissioner of the new United States Football League, said last night that the league will take a hard-line stand against player tampering by any of the 12 teams.
In other developments on the first day of league meetings at the Washington Marriott, Simmons said the owners are undecided whether to have two six-team divisions or three with four teams. He also said he expects the competition committee to approve the option of a two-point conversion and the use of a one-inch kicking tee for field goals and conversions.
In the tampering situation, George Allen, owner-coach of the Chicago Blitz, already has caused several problems with his recruiting and signing of players. Last week the Blitz signed Willie Young, 26, a lineman with three years of eligibility remaining at the University of Illinois.
Young, who played football in the Army for four years, quit Illinois' team because, he said, he couldn't support his wife and five children. The Blitz signed him, but the USFL constitution states that a player cannot be signed if he has college eligibility remaining. Simmons has yet to announce whether he will invalidate Young's contract.
Simmons said that no formal complaints had been filed against Allen, but that there was discussion over his signing procedures at yesterday's day-long meeting.
"I think we all recognize the need to help each other at the beginning. I think the coaches want the other teams to be successful, just as long as they don't beat them," Simmons said. "They're definitely not satisfied if one guy is not up to snuff. We're going to take a hard line against any improprieties. I think if we take a tough stand at the beginning, it will serve as an example. There are always people looking for an edge. That's fine -- on the field, once the games begin."
Allen, a former Redskins coach, did not attend the meetings that will end today, although several other coaches did. He sent his son Bruce, general manager of the Blitz, as the team's representative.
"George wasn't about to come here and listen to all this abuse," young Allen said. "Everybody's looking for players; we're just going a little faster than most. We're just trying to build a football team. We want to have a winning record. George has never had a losing season and he doesn't want to start now."
When asked if any ruling had been made on the Young signing, Allen said, "There hasn't been any decision yet. They're still investigating. This is one instance where our league can help somebody, a guy who probably would never get a degree and could start working now to support his family."
Coaches here are Chuck Fairbanks of New Jersey, Red Miller of Denver, George Perles of Philadelphia and John Ralston of Oakland.
"I'm really excited about this league," Ralston said. "We're getting a great reception in the Bay area. We already have 14,000 applications for season tickets and our offices have only been open 10 days."
Simmons said he hopes to announce at a press conference today the alignment of the 12 teams and the playoff schedule.
"If we have three divisions, then we'll have a wild-card team and two weeks of playoffs," Simmons said. "Otherwise, we'll just have the division winners meet for the championship."