Into a league grown stale with fierce cats, mean birds and other funless fauna could enter the hippest critter yet: the Memphis Hound Dogs.
After months of debate, and no small amount of foot dragging on the part of the NFL, investors in a prospective expansion franchise for Memphis, Tenn., have adopted the Elvis Presley song title as the name of their team.
"I think it's a fun name," said William B. "Billy" Dunavant Jr., the chief investor in the city's NFL effort.
The local connections are obvious. Elvis spent most of his life in Memphis, and his estate and burial plot at Graceland is the city's best-known tourist attraction, drawing 650,000 visitors annually.
Since the singer's death in 1977, Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. has grown into a multinational conglomerate, marketing trinkets associated with the late singer and policing trademarks related to the music.
Last month, the corporation became an investor in Dunavant's NFL bid. To meet league prohibitions on corporate ownership, its stake is officially listed as the estate of Elvis Presley with his surviving daughter as trustee.
"We had been wrestling with the name for a long time, and when Elvis Presley came in, it gave additional credibility to the Hound Dogs," Dunavant said.
The league resisted the choice, but relented in the face of what could prove a marketing bonanza. Presley Enterprises has agreed to share the licensing rights for the purpose of the team, Dunavant said.
"We have their blessings," he said.
NFL teams share evenly the proceeds of NFL licensed goods.
Presley Enterprises spokesman Todd Morgan said: "We think it's cool.
"We don't see a wimpy little Hound Dog logo. It will be rough and tough just like Elvis. He had that element of danger about him."
The song was written by noted rock 'n' roll composers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and first recorded in 1952 by Willie Mae "Big Mamma" Thornton. Elvis picked it up in 1956, releasing it as a single on the flip side of "Don't Be Cruel." It was among the first recordings he made for RCA after leaving Sun Studios.
Two of those cities will receive franchises at NFL meetings that begin Oct. 26.
In other expansion news:
* Mike Sullivan, an investor with Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass' bid for a Baltimore team, said the group forwarded its $20 million letter of credit to the league yesterday. The letter, essentially earnest money, was supposed to be due Monday, but the league gave all the cities until next Monday to get it done.
"We wanted to show them that we are ready," Sullivan said. The money is refundable only if a team is not awarded to the group; if the group gets a team, it will be applied against the $42 million franchise-fee payment due the first week of next month.
"There's no turning back now," Sullivan said.
Joel Glazer, working on behalf of the rival Baltimore bid of his father, Florida-based financier Malcolm Glazer, said his father was prepared to make the payment this week, but will wait until the new deadline.
* In Charlotte, Mark Richardson, working on the bid of his father, ex-Colt Jerry Richardson, said the group had come up with a new financing plan -- but he won't say what it is.
NFL owners had balked at a provision of the group's plan that would reduce the money given to visiting teams. The money, more than $3 million from club-seat sales, instead would be used to pay down debt on the privately funded stadium.
Owners had suggested eliminating or shortening the 15-year period the money would be diverted. Richardson previously said the group was looking at ways to cut costs.
In an appearance before supporters Monday in Charlotte, Richardson said the new plan was forwarded that day to the league.
"Our competition has chosen to play all of its cards publicly. We choose not to tell anybody what we're doing except that we feel very good about it. . . . It also makes our investors and bankers happy," Richardson was quoted as saying in the Charlotte Observer.