National Football League owners today strongly advised one of their peers, San Francisco's Edward DeBartolo, that they would not tolerate his family purchasing a franchise in the U.S. Football League.
But the league stopped short of proposing sanctions against DeBartolo if his family buys a USFL team to put in Pittsburgh.
DeBartolo said he would talk to his father, Edward DeBartolo Sr., and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle indicated that the younger DeBartolo would attempt to change his father's mind, then inform Rozelle of the outcome of the family meeting. The 49ers' owner referred all other comment to Rozelle.
"Eddie accepted the views of the owners, as they were expressed in executive session, and he will return to (his home) in Youngstown (Ohio) and meet with his father," Rozelle said. "He will see what can be done to avoid the conflict of interest involved here.
"Eddie assured us that he wanted to resolve the conflict as soon as possible. There was solid opposition to the situation from our owners and Eddie understood that. We felt the direction of the family should be directed toward the NFL and not a competing league."
Rozelle concedes that the NFL can't prevent the senior DeBartolo from purchasing the Pittsburgh franchise for his daughter. But the other owners told the 49ers' DeBartolo they could foresee problems if his team and one in Pittsburgh were competing to sign draft choices or coaches. And the NFL would feel uncomfortable having family members privy to private information from both leagues.
"Negotiations to purchase the USFL team have not been finalized," Rozelle said. "Eddie told us that . . . We also didn't discuss what would happen if the family went ahead with the (USFL) purchase. It never got that far. Eddie seemed receptive to what we were asking and we left it at that. Now we will wait for results of his meeting with his father."
This problem comes at a time when the NFL still is involved in the legal ramifications resulting from Al Davis' decision to move the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles. The NFL would prefer to present a united front and no more internal squabbles.
Later, the league approved seven rules changes, none of which are considered major. But some proved interesting:
* Officials now will be able to ignore "incidental contact" between pass receivers and defenders, as long as the contact "does not materially affect the route of a receiver or defender."
* Any player on the field now can call a timeout. Previously, only designated players could ask officials for a timeout.
* A player now is automatically disqualified if he takes off his helmet and uses it as a weapon, as Lyle Alzado of the Los Angeles Raiders did in a playoff game last season.
The league also made it tarpolines mandatory (Miami, St. Louis, the Giants and Raiders did not have them). And a game official now will arrive a day early at the site of games to check field conditions, another result of the muddy field in Miami for January's playoff game with the New York Jets.
Baltimore Colts Coach Frank Kush met with the father of Stanford quarterback John Elway this week. The Colts, who have the first pick in next month's draft, are considering selecting Elway, who also is being courted by the New York Yankees and the USFL.
Kush said the Colts would consider trade offers from other teams, particularly if they involve a series of draft choices in exchange for Baltimore's No. 1. "One team said they would send their entire draft list to us for the No. 1," Kush said. "I won't rule out a trade, but we would have to look seriously at how many picks we'd get in return and where they fell in the draft."