Speros: A talk with Tagliabue might resolve name dispute


TORONTO -- Jim Speros is ready to take drastic measures to restore the Colts name to his Canadian Football League expansion team.

He's ready to meet with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

"I'm going to give Paul Tagliabue a call and try to get a one-on-one meeting," the Baltimore owner said before last night's season opener here against the Toronto Argonauts.

"I think it can be resolved. I feel if I sit with Tagliabue and express what the name means to Baltimore and the state of Maryland, I might be able to strike a nerve. I'm willing to work out some modifications . . . to arrive at something that's acceptable to both parties."

Speros said he remains committed to fighting for the name, even though legal fees "could easily go over $200,000." He was barred from using the name June 27 when a federal judge in Indianapolis issued a preliminary injunction.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has set an Aug. 3 date for oral arguments in the case. And Speros' attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson in Baltimore for speedy hearings on his March 1 request for declaratory judgment.

"I wish I could be in court tomorrow," Speros said. "With each passing day, we're damaging our franchise. I want to address it now, so we can get a decision. If the case isn't heard in Maryland, it shouldn't be heard in Indianapolis, either."

Iggy arrives

Baltimore had more to consider than pre-game strategy this week. There was the plight of place-kicker Donald Igwebuike, a Nigerian native and American citizen who did not have a U.S. passport.

Igwebuike remained in Baltimore to finish the necessary immigration paperwork while the team flew to Toronto on Wednesday morning. He got the passport later that day, then joined the team yesterday morning.

Play it again, boys

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke attended last night's game at SkyDome, and planned to visit Niagara Falls today. On Monday, he'll make a pitch to the CFL governors for bringing the 1996 Grey Cup to Memorial Stadium.

How will he sell the city?

"On our long football tradition," he said, "and the 1958 [NFL championship] game. We can do for the CFL what we did for the NFL."

The Baltimore Colts' sudden-death victory over the New York Giants in 1958 is credited with heightening interest in the NFL.

Two Canadian cities -- Hamilton and Edmonton -- also will bid for the '96 title game.

1996 or sooner

Baltimore quarterback Tracy Ham isn't afraid to talk about Grey Cup aspirations.

"I'm not big on predictions, but I like our chances," Ham said of reaching this year's championship game in Vancouver, British Columbia. "I'm a believer you've got to talk about winning championships.

"You can't talk about it and then not do what you're supposed to do -- that's work hard in practice, mentally and physically."

Toronto ties

Ham, who spent an up-and-down season with Toronto last year, is not the only former Argonaut connected with the Baltimore franchise. His backup, John Congemi, also played several years here.

And quarterbacks coach Joe Barnes led the Argos to the Grey Cup title in 1983, beating the British Columbia Lions, 18-17. In 11 CFL seasons, Barnes passed for 18,491 yards and 94 touchdowns.

But when his playing days were over and he approached then-Argos general manager Bob O'Bilovich about a coaching position, Barnes' phone calls were not returned.

O'Bilovich is now the Argos coach, and Barnes said he has not forgotten the slight.


Toronto was a two-point favorite in Baltimore's first-ever CFL game. . . . The Argonauts opened the SkyDome roof shortly before kickoff last night when threatening skies cleared. . . . . . . Toronto broke with CFL tradition by keeping an American lineman, tackle Joe Burgos of Temple, on the active roster. Canadian teams generally use Canadian players on the offensive line and Americans at the skill positions because of the import rule.

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