Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vote Delay Almost Made Weaver Walk Away; NFL Commissioner Convinced Shoe Executive Jacksonville Would Get a Fair Shot at a Team

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vote Delay Almost Made Weaver Walk Away; NFL Commissioner Convinced Shoe Executive Jacksonville Would Get a Fair Shot at a Team

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, The Times-Union

The Jaguars are lucky today to be celebrating their 10-year anniversary. Owner Wayne Weaver almost called an audible, picked up his ball and went back to being a full-time shoe executive before the team's creation.

Weaver had already dropped out of the NFL expansion race once in 1993 over failed lease negotiations with the city of Jacksonville. And without the calming influence of league commissioner Paul Tagliabue, he might have done it again. Weaver was livid when the NFL delayed the process of naming its second expansion team for 35 days after initially giving Charlotte a team in October

Many of the people behind Jacksonville's effort viewed the unexpected postponement as a favorable move for St. Louis, the initial front-runner until several potential owners had trouble presenting a united front. Many took the delay as a sign that the NFL was giving St. Louis more time to get its act together.

"I was really upset when they awarded Charlotte a team and delayed [naming a second city] for a month because we were going to spend another $300,000-400,000 over that period continuing the design phase of [the renovated Gator Bowl]," Weaver said.

Weaver decided to stay in the race after Tagliabue assured him in a face-to-face meeting that Jacksonville would get a fair shake from the NFL owners.

"Jacksonville was the little guy taking on the big guy [St. Louis]," said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. "They were concerned about having an equal opportunity to win a franchise.

"The interpretation on the part of some was that [the 35-day delay] was being rigged for St. Louis."

Former Mayor John Delaney, then serving as Mayor Ed Austin's chief of staff, didn't even attend the second expansion announcement in Chicago because Austin wanted to have someone in Jacksonville to prepare the city for a possible letdown. …

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