MySA.COM: San Antonio on NFL's radar

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  1. Cbz40

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    San Antonio on NFL's radar

    Tom Orsborn - Express-News

    San Antonio is on a track that could lead to the NFL considering it for an expansion team someday, commissioner Roger Goodell suggested Wednesday.

    “My words of encouragement would be to stay the course and continue to grow and continue to prepare if the opportunity comes about,” said Goodell, responding to a question from the audience during a luncheon sponsored by the University of the Incarnate Word and the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.

    While making it clear the league has no immediate plans to grow beyond 32 teams and will continue to discourage relocation, Goodell indicated there has been a shift in how the league views San Antonio.

    “There’s no question the growth is extraordinary here,” Goodell said. “You see it as soon as you come into the city ... The vision the leaders have here to grow this community has been very positive. I think that will provide new opportunities.’’

    The NFL, under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, has spurned the city twice in the past 16 years.

    In March 1992, the league rejected a San Antonio expansion effort. The city’s bid was one of the first cut in a process that eventually led to teams being awarded to Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.
    In 2005, the New Orleans Saints relocated operations to San Antonio in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and played three regular-season games at the Alamodome.

    Tagliabue, responding to reports that the Saints were considering permanent relocation, angered civic leaders when he dismissed the city as a small market.

    Since replacing Tagliabue in 2006, Goodell has worked to establish a warmer relationship between the league and San Antonio.

    “We are in a difficult period of time (economically),’’ Goodell said, “but San Antonio continues to rise, and I think that is remarkable.”

    Saints owner and UIW booster Tom Benson invited Goodell to the event on the UIW campus. The luncheon also featured comments from UIW president Louis Agnese about the school’s fledgling football program, which Benson is helping bankroll.

    Benson said San Antonio “has a friend” in Goodell, who attended Benson’s wedding to Gayle Marie LaJaunie Bird at UIW’s chapel in 2004.

    “He’s been here before, but he never had a real nice tour like he had today,” said Benson, who has strong business and personal ties to San Antonio. “If expansion came, San Antonio would certainly be in the cards. I feel very strongly about that. This guy is very open-minded.”

    During the luncheon, Goodell sat next to County Judge Nelson Wolff, former mayor Henry Cisneros and businessman Charlie Amato, a Spurs shareholder and a member of the chamber’s NFL Task Force.

    “With me, Nelson and Henry sitting next to him, he got the full-court press, trust me,” Amato said.

    “We think we did an adequate job of explaining our growth and showing we are not having all the economic problems they’re having on the West and East coasts. Our region is growing, and we have positive employment, and we explained all that to him.

    “Although he made it clear expansion right now is not a priority, we at least know we are on his radar screen.”

    It wasn’t Wolff’s first visit with Goodell. He said he talked to the commissioner in New York about a year ago.

    “I expressed to him how disappointed we were with Tagliabue after he didn’t have the courtesy to even meet with the mayor (Phil Hardberger) while the Saints were here in 2005, and (Goodell) said, ‘That’s not going to be how it is with me,’” Wolff said. “It’s good for us to establish a relationship with Roger because I think he is going to be in that job for a long time.”

    The Saints played three games before sold-out crowds at the Alamodome before returning to New Orleans after the season.

    Goodell said the league was “incredibly grateful” San Antonio embraced the Saints. He also praised the “passion” of the fans that attended the games.

    “San Antonio continues to do all the right things,” Goodell told reporters. “It is growing. It is a stronger community than it was. You have got great leadership here, both corporate and public. And, as I said, the passion is extraordinary. Passion is really what makes a difference, so you are on the radar screen.”

    Goodell also dismissed the notion that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair would block any attempt to grant Texas a third team.

    “I don’t think they would,” Goodell said. “I think they recognize the great passion of the fans here.”

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