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Special Comment: On the Future of the Jaguars in Jacksonville

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There are so many important stories that we need to address before the begining of training camp.  We have position battles to examine, AFC South rivals to ponder, and the imminent signing of the 2008 Jaguars rookie class to consider.  Yet as of yesterday evening, the focus of the Jaguars fan community shifted to a topic of far greater importance.

When I first read the news through the Philadelphia Daily News, my first reaction was to brush it aside as the yearly midsummer "Jaguars are for sale" rumor.  In fact, I typically see these as hack jobs built to drive a story that the facts rejected.  I addressed the issue of the Jaguars leaving Jacksonville on June 12th in an attempt to shoot down this storyline before it reared its ugly head.  There is nothing I hate more about covering the Jaguars than having to deal with issues of relocation, whether it be implications from rival fans to the not so thinly veiled comments from national sports media.  I would rather consider Brett Favre as the next starting quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars than ponder the issues of relocation.

Honestly, my interest in football is exactly that, in football. In the battle between players and coaches to win a championship.  The battle in the trenches.  The human element.  When the topic moves to things like population growth, returns on investment, and relocation, it sickens me.  Like most fans, this is not what I signed up for.  I want my Jaguars in Jacksonville, where my memories of going to the stadium and wearing the teal and black were created.  I want to write about the Jaguars and not have to defend the ability of Jacksonville to sustain the team.  I want to think about Wayne Weaver and think of him fondly, not as the owner who abandoned his city and betrayed his fans.  But before we can think like this, we must think clearly about what is happening.

For me, spending a few hours  thinking about the change in situation is giving me  great worry.  There are things happening this time that make this feel different than previous years.  Usually Wayne Weaver does not host a press conference to dismiss a rumor, rather a statement is issued. He is doing so today.  In previous "sale scares", an owner is not mentioned by name, especially one that has no obvious connection  to the city or the state.  This time, we have  C. Dean Metropoulo, who if sloppy reporting was going to make up a name, his would be very low on the list.

In true realization of the seven stages of grief, I attempted to rationalize this as just a misreporting of the relationship between the Jaguars and Galatioto Sports Partners, the firm that was assisting the Jaguars in finding partnerships to address the team's debt, but this fails to explain everything.  While it's entirely possible that Metropoulos is looking for a minority ownership, to attract a minority owner without promise of eventual majority ownership is difficult.  The Baltimore Ravens are an example of this through how they handled attracting Steve Bisciotti to invest in the team with an arrangement for an eventual controlling share.

To invest in the Jacksonville Jaguars, emphasis on Jacksonville, without an eventual controling share of the team seems unlikely.  What businessman wishes to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a team only to have a very limited voice as to the operations.  A minority owner is just that, a minority.  To make the Jaguars into a lucrative investment, remebering that the team is valued at somewhere around 700 million dollars, the assurance of full controling ownership at some point during the arrangement is probably critical. 

So what happens next?  If we find out that the Jaguars are close to a sale under whatever terms, it's important to keep things in perspective.

  1. There will be no immediate move of the team. 
  2. The 2008 season will begin with the Jacksonville Jaguars playing in Tennesee in a critical AFC South matchup
  3. There is still no stadium in LA

Today's press conference will hopefully make things more clear.  Wayne Weaver is 73 years old, and there is some speculation that his chlidren have little interest in running the team when he retires.  But this situation is not without hope.  Jack Del Rio just started his charitable foundation and has a very long-term deal.  The team spent a vast sum of money on contracts and in draft moves.  The team has a future in Jacksonville, though one with a very forboding question mark. 

I still have my doubts about the plans to move a team to LA in the near future.  Land issues and funding are yet to be determined, as well as the difficulty in placing a team into a crowded and fickle market that's spit out two other NFL teams still hang overhead.  It would be interesting to see if a new investor in the Jaguars would be willing to come in knowing that a move to LA is less than certain given the issues.

Then again, Metropoulos could know something about the LA situation that the general public does not.

My point here, if there is one, is that while it's disturbing to think that the Jacksonville Jaguars could be anywhere else, none of what we learn tomorrow will have any effect on the 2008 season.  Things will continue as normal, despite the clouds on the horizon.  We at Big Cat Country will continue to bring you the finest coverage on the internet about every aspect of the Jaguars, including their long-term future in Jacksonville, but we will do our best to maintain perspective. 

If I could suggest one thing to the Weavers, it would be to watch this video and remember what it felt like in 1996, when the team was young and the prospects for the future, for the city and the team were sky high.  Remember how exciting it was and think about that before you decide to start something that could end in the terrible ending of the Jaguars dream in Jacksonville

-Chris