For the five finalists in the NFL expansion derby -- including Baltimore -- the waiting will continue.
They'll still have to wait to find out whether the league will stick to its timetable of naming two new teams this fall to play in 1994.
After the NFL owners dropped Sacramento, Calif., and Oakland, Calif., from the list of expansion hopefuls at their annual spring meeting in Pasadena, Calif., yesterday to cut the field to five cities, commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he still doesn't know if the league will expand this fall.
"I can't tell you yes or no if a decision will happen then," Tagliabue said.
The four finalists other than Baltimore are St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla.
Baltimore and St. Louis are the two cities that lost franchises, and they also happen to be the only two that have public financing in place to build new stadiums.
When the NFL owners set up the current expansion timetable in May 1991, they said that labor-management problems could prove to be an impediment.
The league not only hasn't solved those problems, but also is heading toward a major antitrust trial June 15 in Minneapolis. The players are seeking free agency in that trial.
"It's still the same old situation. We're fighting to resolve it. I'm neither optimistic nor pessimistic," Tagliabue said.
That statement was somewhat more pessimistic than what Tagliabue has said in the past, when he's predicted the two sides would reach a collective bargaining agreement to avoid a trial.
Although the owners haven't spelled it out, it's likely they'll expand if they win the trial. If they lose, expansion is likely to be delayed.
One of the two cities eliminated yesterday might get a team before the NFL expands, because Al Davis, the owner of the Los Angeles Raiders, might relocate to one.
The plans to renovate the Los Angeles Coliseum with private funds had collapsed even before riots took place near the stadium. The riots apparently make it even less likely that a private financing plan can be put together for the stadium.
Davis negotiated with Sacramento officials and even agreed to go back to Oakland two years ago, but backed off because of public opposition to a deal he had negotiated with local officials. He said he'd like to take another look at Oakland and Sacramento now that the Coliseum renovation is stalled.
The loss of the Raiders a second time hurt Oakland's expansion bid, and Sacramento was unable to put together a financing plan for a new stadium.
Explaining why the cities were eliminated, Tagliabue said: "The factors that determined the elimination process were 1, demographics currently and in the future, 2, stadiums, and, 3, an analysis of areas in the country that were already served by the NFL."
Tagliabue added, though, that the decision also was "simply a judgment call."
George Vukasin, a leader of the Oakland bid, said he was "very surprised and very disappointed" the city was cut.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the league doesn't know now who the two cities are," Vukasin said. "Charlotte and St. Louis -- that's what everyone speculates."
At the meeting, the owners also rejected a proposal by Jim Finks, the New Orleans Saints president who heads the competition committee, to allow each team to dress only 40 players for each game. Finks is trying to cut down on situation substitution by limiting the number of players that coaches can use in a game.