The Northmen had come to the meeting with an offer of $2.5 million for five years. The figures in Bassett's envelope added up to more than $3 million for three years, or roughly twice as much. By noon virtually no progress had been made, and Keating stopped the negotiations by saying, "It doesn't look like this is going to work out." Solway and Bassett retired to a bedroom for a few minutes. Bassett told Solway he thought the Northmen would lose their prospects if they quibbled. He also said that the signings could make the club and the league. Solway agreed. As they reentered the sitting room Bassett said simply, "O.K. We understand your position. You have a deal."
The total money in the contract amounts to $3.884 million in U.S. currency and is guaranteed by a letter of credit from a Canadian bank. This sum includes a $1-million bonus, payable in proportions relative to the three salaries. By comparison, Csonka and Kiick had been earning slightly less than $60,000 a year with the Dolphins, while Warfield had made about $70,000. In three years under their Miami contracts they would have got some $550,000.
Csonka receives the lion's share, probably close to 45%. Should any of the three play out his Toronto option, he will receive no less than he got in his highest salaried year. The contract even deals with the players' tax advantages. Since Canadian income tax goes as high as 63%, and the U.S. tax only to 50%, Csonka, Warfield and Kiick will want to stay in Canada fewer than 184 days a year to avoid being Csonked with the Canadian tariff. Their contracts make provision for them to spend time in the States during the season in order to stay under the limit. And Keating expects each of the players to benefit from the contract in the area of endorsements, which is a tall order for Csonka, who has already made more than $284,000 in endorsements and personal appearances since the Super Bowl.
Ironically, the three Dolphins signed the agreement beneath a picture of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, whose government opposes the entry of the WFL into Canada and is drafting legislation to keep it out.
Other WFL clubs face uncertain futures because of financial problems. Don Regan, secretary and general counsel of the new league, admits, "If we waited for 12 Lamar Hunts to come along, we wouldn't be ready for the 1985 season. They pop up along the way." Jack Pardee, the former Redskin linebacker and coach of the Washington Ambassadors, expressed the league's attitude by saying, "When the talent shifts, the money shifts."
Houston seems the weakest franchise. Its ownership is unstable and it hasn't settled on a coach although former Giant assistant Jim Garrett is being interviewed. The best-known player under contract is Quarterback Karl Sweetan, who is better known for an alleged attempt to sell his Los Angeles playbook to New Orleans than for his execution of any of the plays therein.
The Washington franchise appears headed to either Annapolis or Norfolk. The team had hoped to play its games in RFK Stadium, home of the Redskins, but Redskin President Edward Bennett Williams refused to make reasonable exceptions in his exclusive lease. "Why, you couldn't have a PTA meeting in RFK without the Redskins approving it," hollered E. Joseph Wheeler Jr., the Ambassadors' owner. "The people who are really losing, of course, are the taxpayers. This is a public facility that is losing money every year. That stadium isn't even bringing in enough revenue to pay the annual interest of $831,000. If I'm forced to move out of Washington, it will be because the U.S. Congress won't protect the taxpayers."
Several WFL clubs—including Philadelphia, Houston, Portland and Detroit—lack big-name players. Various means are being used to fill out rosters. Southern California has signed 25 of its 36 college draftees, including UCLA Running Backs James McAlister and Kermit Johnson and USC Guard Booker Brown. For the Chicago Fire the plan seemed to be the more the merrier—the team has signed some 200 players. Detroit held a George Allen-style free-agent tryout camp. One aspirant, 6'7" and 250 pounds but clearly too old, was told he couldn't make it as a player, and immediately begged, "Well, can I be a waterboy?" Florida was opting for experience, claiming to have 47 players under contract with two or more years of NFL service, although the one thing most seemed to have in common was the experience of being waived out of the league. The Sharks' owner, 5'5" Fran Monaco, fell short of reality when he announced the signing of Notre Dame Defensive Back Mike Townsend, a sixth-round draft choice, with these ringing words: "I feel the same way about signing Mike Townsend as the Jets did when they got Joe Namath. This is a big catch for us and the league."
Television was still another problem. The WFL has a contract with TVS that should bring each club about $100,000 this season; the NFL will get $2 million per team from new contracts with all three major networks that run through 1977 and make the chances of a fat contract for the WFL unlikely for the next four years. Furthermore, the World Football League has drawn up a tentative schedule that might be described as otherwordly, involving as it does such monumental plane trips as Philadelphia to Honolulu.
Nonetheless, the NFL no longer regards the new league as a fly-by-night outfit. "The NFL can have all the first-round draft choices in the world," says Regan, "if we can have the established players." The tactic is not new to football. When Al Davis was commissioner of the American Football League he brought about a merger with the NFL by raiding the older league's quarterbacks. As Davis pointed out last week, "The only difference is that they're speeding up the process by six years. It took us that long to figure out how the weaker league could bring the stronger league to its knees."