3 round out expansion panel


Commissioner Paul Tagliabue filled out his newly created National Football League expansion committee yesterday with the addition of three league owners.

Joining the committee are Hugh F. Culverhouse of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rankin Smith of the Atlanta Falcons and Alex Spanos of the San Diego Chargers. That brings to six the number of owners on the committee, which Tagliabue will chair. In league meetings last week in Minneapolis, he appointed Norman Braman of the Philadelphia Eagles, Ed DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers and Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns.

"I expect the committee to meet for the first time in July," Tagliabue said. "The committee members are a cross-section of our league and are looking forward to the task. Originally, I planned a five-owner committee but decided on six members due to the expansion workload and the interest within the league in the issue."

Among the priorities with the committee is establishing a franchise fee for new teams. Speculation has ranged from $125 million to $200 million, stretched over 10 years.

The league passed a resolution in Minneapolis to add two new teams for the 1994 season. The expansion committee will recommend a list of finalists to league membership by March 1992. A decision is expected to be made by the fall of 1992, although the league has left itself an out in the event of continuing labor-management problems.

It is possible a court decision in Minneapolis this week may hinder the expansion process. Federal judge David Doty ruled on Tuesday that the NFL Players Association is not a union. If his decision is upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the question of whether the NFL's restrictions on free agency violate antitrust laws would go to a jury in Minneapolis. The NFLPA has waged a four-year legal battle for unrestricted free agency.

Herb Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, doesn't necessarily see ominous clouds in the court decision.

"The NFL expansion committee [still] can complete its work, select and recommend two cities," Belgrad said. "And the owners can act on those recommendations. As a caveat, instead of assembling those teams for 1994, it may be 1995."

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