Clancy's Vikings ownership in a holding pattern

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tom Clancy wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms by NFL officials when he won a bidding war in February to buy the Minnesota Vikings.

The league preferred that team president Roger Headrick, an ally of commissioner Paul Tagliabue, retain the team. Tagliabue even took seven weeks to decide that Headrick didn't have the right to match Clancy's offer.

The league has since done its best to discredit Clancy's bid.

There have been various reports quoting "league sources" in Minneapolis as saying Clancy doesn't have the financing to do the deal. And Tagliabue said publicly he was concerned that the process was taking too long.

This was reminiscent of Malcolm Glazer's treatment when he was in the Baltimore expansion hunt before he purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A "league source" called him a "tire kicker" back then.

Clancy thought he put the doubts to rest when he made a presentation to league officials last week. The league issued a statement saying it was a "constructive" meeting. But once again, "league sources" were quoted as saying the league had concerns about his financing.

That was followed by speculation that the Vikings might try to move to Houston because one of Clancy's investors is Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander, who has a right of first refusal if Clancy sells. That fueled reports that the deal is about to fall apart.

Reached at his Maryland home Friday, Clancy contradicted all these reports.

"I'm not moving the Vikings to Texas. It has the worst climate in America. My name is not Irsay, it's Clancy," he said.

Clancy said he didn't bother to read the fine print about Alexander's right of first refusal because he said as long as he's alive, the team will be in Minnesota.

"This is another case of reporter fiction. It's published and all of a sudden, there's a controversy," Clancy said of the speculation the team might move.

Clancy conceded that Alexander will put "more immediate cash" into the deal than he will, but said he'll still be the majority owner.

Clancy, who isn't sure if he'll attend this week's owners' meeting in Miami because he's promoting his latest book, said he's still on track to buy the team, although it's anybody's guess when the owners will get around to voting on his deal.

If the NFL tries to reject his bid, he made the not-so-subtle threat that he'll see them in court.

"We have complied with all NFL rules. If they want to make up new rules as they go along, there will be consequences," he said.

Clancy also is finding out that NFL owners live in more of a fish bowl than best-selling authors do. It got little notice when Clancy, who's engaged to Alexandra Llewellyn, a first cousin of retired Gen. Colin Powell, filed for divorce last Nov. 3.

But since the league has raised questions about whether the divorce settlement will hinder his bid to buy the team, the dispute with his wife, Wanda, has been examined in depth in Minneapolis. She wants a share of his future earnings on the grounds that Clancy's main character, Jack Ryan, was developed during the marriage.

"The media, in all its majesty, rules that public figures have no rights of privacy and the media decides who's a public figure," Clancy said. "It's like sending a guy out in the woods with a machine gun and telling him he can shoot anything he wants. I'm the deer, but I didn't know it was deer season until the bullets started flying."

Despite all that, Clancy still plans to buy the team.

"I'm moving forward," he said. When the Ravens open the regular season Sept. 6 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, both coaches will be lame ducks.

The difference is that Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who's in the last year of his contract, hopes to parlay a good season into a new deal.

By contrast, Steelers coach Bill Cowher, who has two years left on his contact, wants to leave Pittsburgh.

He wants to make $2 million a year and prefers to be coach and general manager. The new Cleveland team is his first choice.

Cowher made it obvious he wants out when he hired agent Bob Fraley, who has engineered Bill Parcells' various moves.

Neither Cowher nor Steelers president Dan Rooney would comment, but Rooney has never had a coach with an agent. Just by hiring an agent -- especially Fraley -- Cowher all but guaranteed he'll be leaving town.

If another team is willing to give the Steelers compensation in draft picks at the end of this year, they'll probably let him out of his contract.

With defensive coordinator Jim Haslett waiting in the wings, the Steelers probably won't be that concerned about losing Cowher.

They're more concerned that Tom Modrak, the college personnel coordinator, got the job as director of football operations for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Modrak has kept a low profile as the top lieutenant of Tom Donahoe, the team's director of football operations, but he has played a key role in the Steelers' success. Bill Walsh, who will join Tony Dungy, John Mackovic and Marv Levy in addressing a group of assistant coaches at an NFL coaching symposium in Miami this week, may not get a warm reception.

The idea is for the assistants to get tips on advancing their careers, but many minority coaches are upset about an op-ed piece Walsh wrote in the New York Times in January before the Super Bowl about the league's minority hiring record.

Walsh wrote that while he didn't think any current owners were racist, he added, "Twenty-five years ago, one occasionally might overhear an owner privately state that he didn't 'feel comfortable with black people.' Today's owner is determined to find the best man available. But he may feel that he doesn't know of a particular black candidate."

The minority coaches felt Walsh appeared to be excusing the owners for not knowing the black candidates.

Jimmy Raye of the Kansas City Chiefs, a vice president of the NFL Coaches Association, which is lobbying to improve conditions for assistant coaches, said he plans to talk with Walsh at the meeting.

"We've just got no voice in the way things are run. They tell you all the time they can replace you with cheap labor. They try to make you run scared. That's the way they handle things," Raye said.

Sidelined

Maryland alum Chad Scott of the Steelers probably will sit out the year after he tore a knee ligament in a workout in Pittsburgh last week.

The cornerback was the Steelers' first-round draft pick last year.

In light of what happened to cornerback Rod Woodson in 1995 and 49ers receiver Jerry Rice last year when they tried to rush back in the same season after suffering similar injuries in the opening games, the Steelers are likely to give Scott the full year to rehab.

Rice broke his kneecap in hisfirst game back last December, and Woodson was never the same after he came back to play in the Super Bowl after the 1995 season.

Woodson left Pittsburgh for San Francisco after the 1996 season but was cut after one year. The Ravens then signed him and are gambling that he can get by on savvy, but he's only a shadow of the player he once was.

Since Scott is only 23, he's better off sitting out a year to make it easier for him to make a complete recovery.

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