Wayne's Words

It's been almost three weeks since Wayne Huizenga completed his sale of all but 5 percent of the Dolphins and Dolphin Stadium, and he's had time to reflect on his time as majority owner of the team. He met with reporters on Tuesday and shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects.

Here's a transcript, released by the team, of Huizenga's press conference:

Opening Statement: "Well good afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here and taking the time out of your busy schedules. Needless to say I have mixed emotions about the sale of the team. I think you know that I love the Miami Dolphins and the NFL with all my heart, but I felt that this was the right time to sell the team. As you know, it was a process that we started about two and a half to three years ago when the economy was very good. It took a long time to get to this point. We interviewed and met with lots of different people and finally, now in this environment, the decision may look better than it really was at the time. It was the right time for us to make the decision about two and a half years ago. As you know I'm going to remain as a partner so my family will always have the opportunity to attend the games. We intend to go to all of the Dolphin home games and to several of the away games. Everyone in our family are big Dolphin fans and we look forward to attending all of the games.

"I want to say that I think the franchise is good hands with Steve Ross. I know that he will be a great owner. He and I have had many, many discussions and I know that he and I think alike, where the number one thing we need for the Dolphins is to bring a championship back here to the stadium. And we want to make that happen and I think that of course with Bill Parcells and Jeff (Ireland) and Tony (Sparano), I think that we're on the right track to make that happen and there's no reason why that can't happen. I'm pleased with the turnaround we had this year, especially after the bad year we had the year before and I give all the credit to the three gentlemen I just mentioned.

"I think some of the things that I remember most about the 19 years that I've been involved with the Dolphins and the number of people that I would like to say thank you to. One is the Robbie family. When I first got involved they taught me the ropes and what to expect and what not to expect, and of course they didn't warn me about the media, but everything else they did. They were good to work with. Also I want to thank Coach Shula as well as all the coaches that followed him. Dan Marino and all the players that we've had who worked so hard and tireless and effortlessly for this team. Eddie Jones, Bryan Wiedmeier, other people in the stadium, other people at the Dolphins that made my trip here a memorable experience. I want to thank all my friends and the NFL family, partners. I want to thank the season ticket holders, our sponsors and most of all, all the fans who stuck through the thick and the thin with us all the years that I was the owner here.

"One of the things I'm proud about is the fact that we remodeled and expanded the stadium. We did it with our own funds and I think it turned out very, very, very, very nice and kept us as a world class facility, which is what we want for the Dolphins, is a world class facility. As you know I'm still a five percent partner and 50 percent partner in all the land around the stadium, which Steve and I someday will get some development efforts on it. Because of that I can assure you that I personally, and everyone in the Huizenga organization, will do anything we can to assist Steve and the team in any way we can to help South Florida. I guess some people ask, ‘What's in the future for Wayne?' In addition to the businesses we have now, we're out actively trying to buy a couple of more businesses. I may sell one of my businesses because my golf game is so terrible I may have to sell Floridian, the golf club. I'm not enjoying golf as much as I use to. But we do look forward to buying some businesses and taking the next step in seeing if we can't be as successful with the future businesses as we have done in the past. So if there are any questions I'll take your questions now."

On what he wants to be remembered for most over his 19 years as owner of the Miami Dolphins: "I don't really think about a legacy; I never have. I pretty much operate under the theory of, you know, ‘it is what it is'. And some people will think it's one way and other people will think it's something else again. But I don't worry about that. It is what it is. That's the only way I could focus on it. So I don't look at things like that."

On not going out with a Super Bowl ring: "Oh yeah. No question about it. If I had one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home and it's something we failed to do. It's tough out there with competitive balance in this league, which is what's great about the league, is competitive balance because every team has the same payroll and that's what's made the league so strong. You don't have just a few teams that can win. I guess last year was a good example. The Giants were in the Super Bowl last year and this year they don't make the playoffs (editor's note: The Giants did make the playoffs). And so it's what makes this league; competitive balance is what makes this league so much better than the rest of the sports franchises."

On if selling the Dolphins is any more or less emotional than any of his other businesses: "Oh yeah. It's a bittersweet decision. I know I'll have regrets and I know I will miss it, but I felt after 19 years…you know there's an old song out there, ‘You gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em'. And when the economy was really good and someone was willing to step up and pay those prices and we sold businesses before. I don't really look at this as a business. You know this is a passion not a business, but in the end it is a business because you're selling it. But it's bittersweet. There's no doubt about it. I'm going to miss the Dolphins a lot and I'll miss the NFL as well."

On if the upgrades to the stadium will be complete by Super Bowl, 2010: "They're complete now. I mean there are always more things you would like to do, but as far as what we designed and planned for and had the drawings for, I mean we've completed what we need to do. So it was an expensive proposition, but I think it was well worth it. Everything you do in life you have to take it to the next level every once in a while and I think we took this to the next level. Are there other things you'd like to do? Sure there's always something else you'd like to do to the building. But I think we made a lot of improvements to the building."

On what his involvement with the Dolphins will be going forward: "Steve and I have had many, many meetings. I saw him at the golf course on Saturday and he asked if I would be around this weekend. He wanted to spend a little bit of time either this weekend or next weekend to talk a little bit, and I am available to talk to him whenever he requests me to be. But I really have no involvement in the team, don't plan to have an involvement in the team, but I am more than happy to help whenever I can. I love the Dolphins and I want to see them be successful."

On the reasons for adjusting Bill Parcells' contract prior to completing the sale of the team: "Well, Bill (Pierce), Bryan (Wiedmeier) and I we talked about it, and it was the right thing to do. It was good for Bill, it was good for Steve and it was good for the Dolphins. I'm happy that it worked out well. We want to see Bill stay. He is good for the Dolphins and obviously they proved themselves with the year we had this year, with the great turnaround we had. It was exciting this year, to come from where we were to winning our division."

On why it's good for the Dolphins that Bill Parcells can leave at any time: "It does benefit the team because Bill now has no reason to leave. He is not forced to make a decision in a short period of time. He'll have plenty of time to stay as long as he wants to stay."

On reflecting on having owned three professional teams: "Well, I think when it comes to the Marlins, it was exciting competing for South Florida to get a baseball team here. We were successful in that. Then fortunately we were successful in taking it to the big game. Similar with the Panthers, we did take it to the big game, but we never won that game. I think it was exciting for me to bring those sports to South Florida and compete with other cities around the country that wanted those franchises and I'm happy that they are here, and I hope that they never leave."

On if the teams would have made it to South Florida without him: "No clue. I couldn't answer that question."

On his happiest moments being an professional sports team owner in South Florida: "I would have to give that some thought. There are lots of great, great memories with all three teams. Of course my passion is with the Dolphins. I looked at the other franchises as, yes, they are great to be able to bring them to South Florida and great that we could make that happen, but my passion and my heart is with football."

On if there will be a naming rights deal with the stadium prior to the Super Bowl next year and the future of professional sports in today's economy: "I don't know about the naming rights. Joe Bailey is out there with his team trying to get that accomplished. But it's a tough environment to make that happen in this rough economy. I can't answer that question as to whether or not they will be successful in doing that. I think, like I said, my passion is football. The thing that I worry about the most is recently the NFL entered into a new labor agreement and that labor agreement really didn't turn out the way it should have turned out. From one year to the next year our labor costs went up 22 million dollars, and since that time it's gone up six or seven million dollars each year in addition to that. So my big concern with football, which I love, is the player costs. What's happening is that 22 million dollar bump in the first year forces teams to pass the cost on to the fan. It's going to get to a point where the fans aren't going to want to pay the ticket prices anymore, and that's my biggest concern about football. You have to keep it affordable for the fans. We passed on labor costs a couple of years ago and we lost thousands of season ticket holders; it's tough. My biggest concern about football is the labor agreement and what it's going to do to the fans."

On why he is willing to give complete control to coaches as opposed to other owners: "I can't answer the question why other owners do what they do or don't do, but that has always been the way I operate a business. We had four publically held companies at one time. Well you can't have four companies at one time and try to manage them all yourself. You have to hire the right people to go in and run those. I look at the Dolphins as no different than that. You turn over the football side to Bill Parcells and the other side over to Bryan Wiedmeier and you've got good people making it happen out there. I am not successful because of Wayne Huizenga, I was successful because of people I hired. So I go by, you always hire someone smarter than you."

On how much tougher it was to move ahead with the sale with the success that the Dolphins had this year: "Well, it was tough. No doubt about it. But remember, like I said earlier, we made the decision to sell two and a half, three years ago, when business was good and the team was doing better. So I don't compare it with last year I compare it with when we made the decision two and a half years ago."

On the impact of a new Marlins Stadium: "I hope the Marlins do get their stadium passed. I would hate to see them leave South Florida."

On if he has any regrets from his time being the owner of the Miami Dolphins: "I have one regret and that is we didn't bring the Super Bowl back to South Florida here."

On his best decision as owner of the Dolphins: "Hiring Bill Parcells."

On what advice he would pass on to Steven Ross: "I think right now we're in a much better position than we were before because of Bill (Parcells) and because of Jeff (Ireland) and because of Tony (Sparano). My advice to him would be to let them do their thing. I may be successful in other businesses but that doesn't mean I know football. Steve Ross may build the biggest and the best buildings in the world but that doesn't mean he's better than Bill Parcells. So you hire those people and I'd let them run the show."

On what he has learned about the hiring process for head coaches: "It's tough. There's a lot to winning on the football field. Some coaches move from one city to another city and immediately they fail because of the talent they have. Other coaches move to another city and they're successful because of the talent that team has at the time. It's hard to talk about moving from one city to another or one team to another. A lot goes into it rather than just one single person."

On how concerned he is that the economy will have an adverse effect on the NFL: "I think it will have a chilling effect on other leagues before it has an effect on the NFL. That is a concern, but I'm more concerned about the competitive balance in the league and keeping that competitive balance and not getting the fan priced out of coming to the games."

On his role in the Pro Bowl coming to Miami: "I've always been a fan of bringing it back to the [mainland] U.S., but I had nothing to do with it coming here this particular year. That decision was made at the league level and we had nothing to do with that."

On if he's felt wistful the last few weeks knowing that his tenure as majority owner of the Dolphins is over: "I have my good days and bad days. It's just something that we'll have to get used to."

On if he envisioned the sale being completed on January 20 or if there were roadblocks along the way: "First of all, the contract called to close two days after the last game. So we couldn't close it last year. It just took a while to get a deal of this size completed."

On his thoughts on the 1997 Florida Marlins and if he has any regrets with decisions that were made then in that regard: "We lost 34 million dollars the year we won the World Series. I just said, ‘Hey, you know what, I'm not going to do that.' If I had to do it over again I'd say, ‘Okay, we'll go one more year. But I'm telling you right now, at the end of this year, I'm out of here.' That's what I would have done. That's in hindsight and there's nothing you can do about it. The decision was made and we made it."

On if he thinks baseball can be as successful in South Florida as it was for the first year of the Marlins in 1993 when they averaged 38,000 fans per game: "It's like anything else; you have to win. It's more difficult in other sports than it is in the NFL because of this competitive balance that we have. One thing that the NFL must, must do is keep this competitive balance. That's what keeps all the fans in the game."

On if the other teams he owned outside of the Dolphins were more business opportunities than a passion: "If you talk with Bryan (Wiedmeier) and Bill Pierce, it's business all day long because you're talking about sponsorships, ticket prices and so forth. But when you're talking really about what the passion is, you have to win the games. You know what I mean? On the one hand, you're dealing a lot on a business-like basis. You want to treat your customers and fans on a business-like basis, but what you really have to do is win those games. That's not really what it is in normal business. You know what I mean? It's all about the bottom line in normal business. Here it isn't about the bottom line; it's about winning that trophy, that Super Bowl trophy. It's tough, especially for someone like myself. For 20 hours a day I'm thinking business. It's hard to make the switch sometimes."

On if he thinks baseball can work as a business: "It's been so long since I've been involved. I haven't kept up with where they are, so it's not fair for me to comment on that."

On if he still has his percentage of the Florida Panthers: "Yes. A couple percent, I don't know exactly what it is. That's what we had to do at the time to make the sale."

On his feelings after the Dolphins beat the Jets to win the AFC East: "It was a magical feeling. I had tears in my eyes. I kept looking away so I wouldn't have to wipe my eyes in front of everybody. It was one of those things. It was an emotional moment, and I thank the guys for doing that. Everybody worked extremely hard to make it happen. Everybody was in sync with everyone else. It was a wonderful experience."

On if he tried to model himself after another owner: "No. I didn't think about that. Maybe I should have."

On if he can see himself involved in any others sports ventures in the future: "I would never say never to anything. You know what I mean? You never know what the opportunities are going to be in the future you never know what circumstances are. Right now I don't have anything planned. My plan now is to get back into the business world and buy a couple of companies."

On when he modified Bill Parcells' contract, if there were any other modifications: "No."

On what he sees as the biggest threat to competitive balance in the NFL: "The labor agreement is coming up. I hope that there will not be a strike or a lockout. I hope that that doesn't happen. In those union negotiations, you never know what happens. I think it would be a shame for both sides to lose the cap that we have now that creates the competitive balance. I assure you that no one wants to see that go away."

On if this team wasn't coming off a playoff appearance, if he still would have sold the team: "You've got to remember now, we made this decision two and a half, three years ago. Even with Steve Ross, the first half of this was closed in February, long before we had the season. None of this is based on this season or last season. We made these decisions before either one of those seasons."


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