For the second time in four months, it appears the sale of the Washington Federals has fallen through.
Yesterday, Howard Schnellenberger withdrew his name from consideration to coach the U.S. Football League team if it moves to Orlando, Fla. Later, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the group trying to buy the team was giving up its efforts because it was unable to negotiate a favorable deal with Tampa Bay Bandits owner John Bassett for territorial rights.
"I could jump out the window," the Sentinel quoted Don Dizney as saying from the 14th-floor offices of his United Medical Corp. building in Orlando. "I hate to lose it. We were so close. I feel like I've let so many people down."
Dizney, an Orlando hospital executive, signed the sales contracts for the team on Sept. 1. At the time, he said signing Schnellenberger as coach and chief operating officer was one of four conditions that had to be met before the sale could be completed and the team moved.
"At this point, I think we ought to pack up and fade into the beyond," said Robert Linowes, a general partner in the Federals. "I have no idea whre we'll go from here. This is such an unbelievable set of situations that to call it a comedy of errors would be too kind."
Berl Bernhard, Federals' chairman of the board, said last night that he had not heard of a change in plans. Asked about other potential purchasers, Bernhard said, "I haven't paid attention to anybody (buyers) since I thought the thing was pretty well set."
The USFL had extended the Federals' deadline to sell the team before the league took it over. Bernhard said that extension goes through Sept. 30.
A league source said there was no timetable for settling the Federals' ownership issue since schedules won't be made up until December.
Through a spokesman, Schnellenberger blamed the league's impending switch to a fall season and questions about territorial rights fees as his reasons for withdrawing from consideration for the job. Spokesman Ron Steiner said Schnellenberger would remain in Miami until November, "when things should begin opening up."
Schnellenberger was quoted by Steiner as saying, "I have concluded my coaching future is not in the USFL. My future is in football and I look forward to being back on the sidelines."
Thus, for the second time, Schnellenberger will not be coaching the Federals. In May, he resigned as coach at national collegiate champion Miami to become coach and chief operating officer of USFL Miami. But the sale of the Federals to hotel developer Sherwood (Woody) Weiser fell through when the USFL announced a move to fall football in 1986.
Schnellenberger had helped Dizney line up investors in his attempt to buy the Federals. Sources in Miami said that Schnellenberger also was concerned about the capitalization of the new team, saying he would need $15 million to be competitive immediately.
An agreement with Bassett on territorial rights was another of the four conditions that had to be met and yesterday that appeared to be the biggest factor in killing the deal. When the USFL was formed two years ago, Bassett was granted territorial rights for Florida and any new team in the state must purchase league rights from him. For the Orlando rights, he was asking $1.2 million, 2 1/2 percent of the team's gross revenue, the right to purchase 50 percent of the team in the event of a merger with the NFL, required participation in a Florida cable network controlled by Bassett and the payment of all expenses in an annual preseason Orlando-Tampa Bay game with revenues split between the teams.