The NFL will make another run at selecting its second expansion city on Nov. 30, but this time there will be no 11th-hour substitutions.
When the league scheduled its expansion meeting for Chicago yesterday, it set a deadline of Nov. 15 for any ownership changes.
That means Baltimore has less than 10 days to establish a third ownership group if city organizers decide to take that route.
On Oct. 26, when Charlotte, N.C., was awarded the NFL's 29th franchise, St. Louis' ownership group had been in place just two days. The league's expansion and finance committees could not reach a consensus on a second recommendation, and the decision was deferred until this month.
It was widely perceived that the extra time was designed to help St. Louis gets its application in order. Officials from Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn., expressed concern about the process after the delay.
League official Roger Goodell said that since the first meeting in Chicago, some cities had requested time to make changes in ownership. He said the league needed time for "due diligence" to examine the altered plans and packages. "There are financial checks and security checks," he said. "We want to make sure we understand what everyone is proposing, so we can give [the information] to the committee in proper form.
"This isn't a change in policy, it's a continuation of the same policy. We set a date so the cities and ownership can complete all their documentation, and we can get all our work done, too."
Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said Baltimore sought a clarification of the league policy on changes after the Chicago meeting.
"We don't have any hidden agenda," Belgrad said. "The change that has taken place here is that both the mayor [Kurt L. Schmoke] and the governor [William Donald Schaefer] have jumped in as full working partners."
Belgrad said no decision has been made to reshape Baltimore's package, either in strategy or with new owners. That decision, he said, will fall to Schaefer. But it is clear that Baltimore has options beyond its two current ownership groups, headed by clothing magnate Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass and Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer.
Belgrad said he and expansion committee member Mathias J. DeVito, chairman of The Rouse Co., have been inundated with calls from existing and potential groups. Belgrad would not identify any of the groups.
"They may be new in the sense they haven't filed an application, but we haven't sought out any groups at this point," Belgrad said. "We've had a number of individuals who've been mentioned before, yes. There has been one new group to come on the scene. It's the result of somebody who felt he wanted to support the governor in any way he could. If it meant being an [minority] investor or a major investor, he wanted to do it for the governor."
Schaefer is expected to meet with Schmoke, DeVito and Belgrad soon to determine the direction of the bid. Those four, along with stadium authority consultant Ernie Accorsi, met for two hours on Wednesday.
"The whole purpose of trying to get as much information as possible is to be fair to the two existing groups," Belgrad said. "We're trying to be objective in making a decision. We can't get lost in personalities. We didn't get a franchise on Oct. 26. We want to have one on Nov. 30. If it means change, then we're going to make a change."
Goodell said the committee members will convene in the morning of Nov. 30, and the full session of owners will meet at 2 p.m. EST. No presentations by the four cities in the running are expected, although it is possible commissioner Paul Tagliabue may call for a meeting before the joint committees.
Baltimore's contingent in Chicago included Schaefer and Schmoke, but Belgrad said yesterday he was uncertain who would attend this time.
Belgrad called yesterday's guidelines "another example of the NFL trying to be fair, trying to give everybody the same rules.
"I feel on a head-to-head confrontation with St. Louis, when it comes down to the 30th, it doesn't matter whether their ownership group is together," Belgrad said. "I think our package exceeds theirs."