Baltimore Stars owner Myles Tanenbaum said yesterday that the U.S. Football League already has the votes to ensure a move to the fall season in 1986.
A meeting of the 14 league owners will be held Monday in Teaneck, N.J., and Tanenbaum said they will undoubtedly reaffirm the vote that was taken last August to move to the fall of 1986. A two-thirds vote of owners, or 10 votes, is necessary to pass a resolution to remain in the spring, meaning five owners must vote no to block it. Los Angeles, without an owner, will not vote.
"We have the votes," Tanenbaum said, without naming names. "It's not even worth speculating about. It won't be unanimity, but we only need five votes and I can count them." The teams expected to vote with Tanenbaum are New Jersey, Oakland, Chicago and Portland, among others.
In a telephone interview from Philadelphia, Tanenbaum also said he has been dissatisfied with the team's temporary arrangements in College Park this season because "there is no there there" for a professional football team. He indicated fans are unwilling to make the trip from Baltimore or Washington for a team that is only spending one season in its temporary headquarters. "We either want to be in Washington or out of it," he said.
He also indicated that his fellow USFL owners eventually are hoping to get an injunction that would prevent the National Football League from having its games televised on all three major television networks in the fall of 1986. The USFL has filed a $1.32 billion antitrust suit against the NFL.
The NFL has contracts with all three networks amounting to close to $2.1 billion over five years that run through 1986.
"To succeed we have to get a network to drop one of its NFL shows on Sunday, because it's against the law (in violation of antitrust law)," Tanenbaum said. "The antitrust suit is aimed at the fact that the NFL is a monopoly and it monopolizes Sunday television. We will probably try to get the court to enjoin the NFL from being on more than one network in 1986. We're going to be taking our shot while they are playing in 1986. But we can't get the injunction if we aren't playing in the fall."
The vote to move to the fall seems assured if only because a number of teams made franchise moves this season with the understanding that the league would be going to the fall in 1986, including Baltimore, and the Michigan Panthers, who merged with Oakland. The Chicago Blitz decided to sit out a season and possibly return in the fall of 1986. If Chicago owner Eddie Einhorn chooses to vote, he is expected to oppose remaining in the spring.
"I'd vote against any proposal for the spring," New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump said. "Nothing in life is certain, but it's not likely (the league will vote for spring). Football was meant to be played in the fall. I came into the league believing we would move to the fall. I don't believe in spring. A lot of teams made moves on the basis of going to the fall."
John Bassett, owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, has said he will oppose the move to fall.
The news comes as a great relief to the Stars, who have been languishing in their temporary home at College Park's Byrd Stadium. The defending league champions, with season-ticket sales of 17,000, drew only 14,832 fans to Sunday's victory over the Portland Breakers. Attendance is off by 29 percent from their championship season last year in Philadelphia.
Tanenbaum said that 41,000-seat Byrd Stadium has not been a profitable home for the Stars. Access to the stadium is difficult, parking is distant and it is a 45-minute commute from Baltimore.
"I don't want to sound like a total ingrate," Tanenbaum said, "But there is no there there. From the standpoint of the stadium, I think we're a 'never was,' not even a 'has been' . . . People came to a game and there were traffic problems, when they got there it was a long walk to the stadium, they were in strange territory. They said, 'We'll come back when they're in Baltimore.' There is no commitment, and that's understandable."
The Stars, who have been commuting to games from Philadelphia, already have a four-year agreement to play at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium beginning in the fall of 1986.
"There is not enough TV money in the spring to make it work," Tanenbaum said. "It can't work in the spring . . . People may enjoy watching TV in the spring, but they can't watch it at their picnic tables or the beach. There are literally fewer people watching. Fall is the natural time of year for football."