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Peter King
October 22, 1990
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October 22, 1990

The Nfl

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Career until Sunday






Against Detroit







Think what you will of Texas E. Schramm and his arrogant flair, but he is the man who brought Pete Rozelle into the NFL and, as the Cowboys' president and general manager, was more responsible than anyone else for making Dallas one of the game's marquee franchises. Yet twice in the last 18 months, Schramm has been forced out of the sport that he helped to make so successful.

Schramm and the Cowboys parted company in April 1989, shortly after Jerry Jones bought the team, but Schramm took over the start-up of the World League of American Football, an NFL-backed satellite league with franchises in Europe and North America. Last week, the WLAF board of directors voted to fire Schramm as league president, replacing him with Viking general manager—and WLAF board member—Mike Lynn.

The basic difference between Schramm and the seven NFL owners who make up the WLAF board was this: Schramm wanted the WLAF to be the big leagues and the NFL wanted Double A ball. All the NFL wanted was a nice little spring football league, which would feed the parent league some players, make it some money and expand interest in the NFL throughout Europe—and maybe someday the rest of the world. Schramm wanted a very big league very fast that not only would make money for the NFL but also would stand apart from it.

Schramm, 70, took the inglorious end to his 40 years in pro football in typical chip-on-the-shoulder style. "I know this is corny," he says, "but if you dare to be great, dare to do something different and unique, it's possible that something like this can happen. It's stretching the point, I know, but this is like Ted Williams choosing to play the final day of the season when he knows he's got the .400 average. I wasn't going to sit by, knowing we've got a good league. It's not my nature. I wanted this league to be great."

According to a memo sent last week from the WLAF board to the 26 NFL owners who are shareholders in the new venture, the board wants to rein in the new league. "Despite the TV contracts [ABC and USA Network have signed on], charter sponsors and enthusiastic prospective franchisees, etc., we believe the league should temporarily be down-sized from the proposed 12 teams to 10 or eight teams, at least two of which will be based in Europe," the memo said. "Most importantly, a change at the top is necessary. The vision that we might all have initially agreed to and pursued has changed and so, therefore, has the need for a CEO of Tex Schramm's ability and style."

Now the leadership of the league falls to Lynn, who leaves Minnesota under a cloud. He was fighting what appeared to be a losing battle to gain majority ownership of the Vikings for a group he was heading, the team was staggering under a 1-4 start, and he was taking a lot of heat for having given up too much in trading for Herschel Walker a year ago. The WLAF is getting a more fiscally conservative manager than Schramm as well as one who is better at taking orders.

One of Lynn's first priorities will be to complete negotiations with prospective owners, some of whom are stunned by the WLAF board's huge asking price for a franchise: $11 million. With the anticipated start of the inaugural season only five months away, not one franchise owner has been announced. As for Schramm, he's ready to go to work on something else. "I enjoy being in the arena," he says. "I'm either going to get into another arena, or I'm going to build my own."


The Colts have just started to play well, and guess who comes to dinner? Eric Dickerson, whose six-week exile on the non-football injury list ended on Wednesday. He signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension last Saturday, but the money won't solve his difficulties with his teammates. Those weren't open arms waiting for him at the door of the locker room. Inside are the guys he ripped during his training camp holdout.

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