Commissioner Pete Rozelle of the National Football League said today that "there will not be a merger settlement to the USFL case" despite reports that have speculated otherwise.
In his annual Super Bowl week press conference, Rozelle said settlement talks have been held between the NFL and the U.S. Football League.
The USFL has filed a $1.3 billion antitrust suit against the NFL, enjoining the NFL from appearing on all three television networks. The trial is tentatively scheduled for March.
"Merger talks have been held at the request always of the U.S. Football League," Rozelle said pointedly. "Their attorneys requested a meeting with our attorneys to talk about merger."
Rozelle indicated there are no ongoing negotiations and none are planned. "The NFL owners have made their decision," he said. "They are going to court."
Rozelle touched on a variety of subjects today. When one reporter asked him to comment on Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon's "unprofessional behavior" this week, Rozelle said: "I think Jim McMahon has become a fascinating folk hero, an individualist who has captivated the country in recent weeks.
"I do feel, however, that he can cross that line. I realize that some of you have written derogatory comments about him. I regret that. We're trying to sell him. I want him sold, not knocked."
Rozelle said he disallowed McMahon's Adidas headband, in part, because, "We don't want our players looking like race-car drivers with (advertising) patches everywhere. We don't want to have a center with 'Big Mac' on his fanny and have the TV cameras pick it up."
The commissioner said one of the league's most pressing concerns is coping with "greatly-inflated costs and (teams) trying to break even." He noted the rapid increase in player costs, which he estimated to be an average of about $265,000 per player ($202,000 in salary and $63,000 in bonuses and pensions) and $15 million per club per season.
Rozelle said he thought five or six teams in the NFL lost money this season, which, he said, was about the same number as last season.
"I know of no club that's in real (financial) trouble right now," he said.
He said the NFL still is waiting for the 9th Circuit Court to rule on the league's appeal to overturn the ruling on the Raiders' case.
With court cases in the works and television-contract and collective-bargaining negotiations upcoming, Rozelle said expansion is not pending.
"It is a matter of getting our immediate problems out of the way for stability," he said. "When we do, we can consider expansion, initially by two teams . . . we'll do it when we don't have unknown factors."
Rozelle said of the growth of the Super Bowl, "Some people will say it's hype, overdone, but I think it's tremendous. If the American public didn't have something entertaining, we'd be in trouble. We'd have a sick society. It gives us a chance to think about something else besides international and domestic problems. It's supposed to be fun and that's what it is.