The U.S. Football League will announce plans to expand after league meetings in Chicago later in the week, according to Jim Gould, Washington Federals president. Edward DeBartolo Sr., whose son is owner and president of the San Francisco 49ers, will own the new Pittsburgh franchise despite objections by NFL officials.
The elder DeBartolo is expected to give his daughter titular control of the Pittsburgh team. The DeBartolo family owns a number of thoroughbred race tracks, shopping centers, industrial parks, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. The DeBartolo Corporation is based in Youngstown, Ohio.
At the NFL league meetings in California two weeks ago, the younger DeBartolo agreed to discuss with his father the NFL's objections to his family's plans in the USFL. Some NFL owners were concerned that the DeBartolo family would be competing for players.
"The league has its reservations, no doubt about that," said Jim Heffernan, the NFL director of public relations. Heffernan said the younger DeBartolo will meet soon with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle about the matter.
David Dixon, New Orleans art dealer who was rewarded for his role as founder of the league with the rights to a franchise in Houston, is said to have found a buyer for those rights willing to pay $6 million. In addition to Pittsburgh and Houston, the other likely cities for expansion are Dallas and either Minneapolis or Seattle.
Gould said Gordon Davenport Sr., who has a limited partnership in the Federals and is the head of Davco, the company that owns the Wendy's fast food franchises, is interested in starting a USFL team in Memphis. Davenport would divest himself of his interest in the Federals if he were to gain the rights to a another team.
"Either we'll expand to 16 (from 12) right away next year, or add two and then two the following year," Gould said. "But expansion is a given as far as I'm concerned, and as far as most of the league is concerned."
In New York, USFL Commissioner Chet Simmons said he has told George Allen, president and coach of the Chicago Blitz, that he will be fined if he makes any more statements critical of league operations.
On March 28, the day after the Blitz drew only 10,936 spectators, Allen said the USFL should not consider expansion now.