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Realignment next on NFL's docket
Posted: Tuesday March 16, 1999 09:59 PM
PHOENIX (AP) -- With tentative approval given to Los Angeles for the NFL's 32nd franchise, one of the next topics league owners will discuss is realignment.
The issue won't be addressed during these meetings, although preliminary discussions were held and commissioner Paul Tagliabue found enough support for realignment. The 32nd team wouldn't begin play until 2002.
Not that the league has much choice. The current setup of six divisions would require two divisions with six teams and the rest with five, which makes little sense.
"There was a fair amount of discussion of realignment, and there is quite a bit of sentiment on moving ahead with eight divisions of four teams," Tagliabue said. "There clearly is not enough information or time to get any kind of consensus here.
"We'll come back later this year with an alignment proposal of eight divisions with four teams."
The only concrete proposal offered thus far comes from Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. He favors realignment highly flavored by geography.
Rooney also would like to see as close to a balanced schedule as possible. That would feature two games vs. each division opponent, four intraconference games against another division, four interconference games against a full division, and two wild-card games.
"I don't think there is any question that we have to realign," said Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. "It's got to happen when we get to 32. I don't know if it would be eight divisions of four teams or what, but that looks like the most logical plan at this point."
Any realignment plan is bound to meet with resistance from teams which would see certain annual rivalries dissolve. For example, the Washington Redskins surely would be placed in a different division from the Dallas Cowboys on a geographic basis. How often would they get to play under such a system?
"Our fans want to see something they can reason with," Rooney said. "They would like to be able to see all the teams, and the way the schedule is now, we'll never see some teams."
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