What Is Red's Angle?

In light of Red McCombs tough words for the Minnesota Legislature, rumors are circulating and questions are being asked about his motivation for speaking out when things seem to be going his way.

Red McCombs made his money as a used car salesman long before he was a multi-millionaire 100 times over. You get the feeling that the spirit of that occupation hasn't left his blood.

In doing some questioning of people in the know to the McCombs situation, VU has been hearing some interesting stories and they revolve more around the G-3 NFL money than anything else -- what might seem like a small amount in the big picture of things.

Reaction to McCombs' press release Monday that left many in the Legislature in shock has been almost unanimously against McCombs. Just when it seems the state is getting off Square One to address the stadium issue for the Vikings, his response that he may sell or relocate the team wasn't taken as a sign he wants quick action, but more as a threat, and politicians rarely coddle well to threats. Unlike the contraction talk of baseball and the Twins that got a stadium plan moving, McCombs is saying build it or not only won't we come, we'll leave.

The threat to move isn't idle chatter. VU was told this week that one NFL owner has said the plan to move a team into Los Angeles is down to three teams -- San Diego, the Vikings and Arizona -- and that it will be one of those three. Expansion is almost out of the question now that the league has realigned and has eight four-team divisions.

That's where the G-3 money comes in. The NFL created the pool when teams like the Colts, Cardinals and Browns left their home areas after not being able to swing stadium deals and couldn't afford to do it on their own. That pool of money, which expires in March 2003, has doled out $600 million in funding, and McCombs has requested a $52 million piece of that pie to help get it coming his way.

Where the rub comes is that the money isn't available to the owner group led by Anschutz Entertainment for a stadium in Los Angeles -- only current owners. However, if McCombs was to sell the Vikings to the Anschutz group, it could access the $52 million earmarked for the Vikings.

Complicated? Yes. But it helps get a little perspective on why McCombs is talking tough. If the State Legislature isn't willing to build a stadium, McCombs has a small window of opportunity to access that money as incentive for a team to buy the Vikings -- whether to keep it in Minnesota or move it.

Several hurdles remain in this story, including whether a newbie among NFL owners like McCombs would get approval to access the biggest cash cow the league has available in the second-largest U.S. television market among the "old boys network," whether a stadium deal in L.A. can even get done when two exisiting facilities (the Rose Bowl and L.A. Colliseum) are still open for business and whether McCombs can get approval to move the team considering the agreement the NFL made with Minnesota to keep football in the state. These could all come up in the coming months, but one thing is certain according to our sources -- McCombs is serious ... very serious. He may be willing to take the fight to court if he doesn't get what he wants.

This could make him unpopular with Vikings fans, but keep in mind he doesn't live here. He's a Texan who has business interests in Minnesota, unlike Carl Pohlad, who faced serious problems from business associates when he approved contracting the Twins. McCombs will have a tough time getting approval to move a franchise that has a storied history with the league and unquestioned fan support, but he isn't going to lay down and continue to see his investment slide down the charts while lesser franchises reap the harvest of sweet stadium deals. This story is far from over, but, as time is going by, we're finding out how serious McCombs is about getting his way. Whether he is successful or not remains to be answered, but his willingness to try is reason enough for concern.

* The Vikings will get a chance to see the second year of the Vermeil era K.C. Chiefs up close and personal. The two teams will practice together Aug. 2-3 at Mankato. The Chiefs have their training camp at nearby River Falls, Wis., and will reinstate the former custom of having shared practices and scrimmages.
* One name surfacing as a potential buyer for the Vikings is T-wolves owner Glen Taylor. However, Taylor is also being mentioned as a buyer for the Twins and the likelihood of him chasing both franchises is remote at best.
* Antonio Freeman has been given permission to seek out a deal with another team, but VU is being told that the Packers would want a draft choice and the new team would have to assume what remains on his $42 million contract -- working out new terms if possible. With that heavy contingency and Brett Favre's wish to keep him in Green Bay, it's no suprise that nobody has come knocking and that, even if he's released by the Packers June 1, he'll likely return to Green Bay this fall.

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