Vikings sale makes history

By wire services
Published February 15, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS - Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler agreed to buy the Vikings in a deal that would make him the league's first black owner.

Fowler would not say how much he would pay for the team under the deal announced Monday. Published reports and a rival bidder, Glen Taylor, put the price at about $625-million.

Owner Red McCombs had the team on the block since 2002. He bought the team in 1998 for $246-million.

Asked about being the league's first black owner, Fowler, 46, said in a seeming contradiction that he thought it was "a great thing" and not that big a thing. He said race didn't figure in negotiations with McCombs.

"He did not discount the price because of that," Fowler said, laughing.

Owners are to meet March 20-23 in Hawaii; 24 of the 32 must approve a sale. The NFL also mandates that a general partner must put down 30 percent of the cash portion of any franchise purchase.

Fowler's ownership group - he said he had three limited partners - faces the same problem McCombs did: the Metrodome doesn't generate as much revenue as other stadiums.

Fowler brushed aside questions about pressing for a new stadium and rejected any thought of moving the team.

"We want to focus today on just acquiring the team," he said at a news conference.

Opposition to a publicly funded stadium has been strong. And with the Vikings' Metrodome lease running through 2011, baseball's Twins and University of Minnesota football are thought to be higher priorities with the Legislature.

State Senate majority leader Dean Johnson said Taylor, a former state legislator and owner of the NBA's Timberwolves, would have had a better shot at money for a stadium.

"Fowler would have to start in first grade," Johnson said before the deal was announced.

Fowler played football at Wyoming. He owns Spiral Inc., a company that supplies grocery stores with bags, cups, containers, labels and janitorial supplies. The Arizona Republic reported Saturday that Fowler's personal net worth is estimated at more than $400-million - far less than Taylor's $1.9-billion.

Hey, Bucs: Garcia released

TAMPA - A year ago, the Browns outbid the Bucs for Jeff Garcia. But Tampa Bay will have a second chance at the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

Garcia was told the Browns will release him Feb.22, giving the Bucs another option if they are unable to reach a new agreement with starter Brian Griese.

"I believe Jeff will be signed pretty soon after next week," Garcia's agent, Steve Baker, said. "I believe he'll have multiple options. We had asked Cleveland to deal with us quickly. I appreciate what they did."

The Bucs have exchanged contract proposals with Griese's agent, Ralph Cindrich. The team has until March to reach an agreement with Griese. That's when he is owed a $6-million roster bonus the club has little intention of paying. Combined with a $2-million base salary, his salary-cap figure would near $8-million.

Garcia came close to signing with Tampa Bay in the spring after meeting with coach Jon Gruden. But he was lured away by the Browns' four-year, $25-million contract.

"He considered (Tampa Bay) very strongly," Baker said.

Garcia didn't fit into the Browns' system under then-coach Butch Davis, starting only 10 games and completing 144 of 252 passes with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But Garcia spent five seasons with the 49ers in the West Coast offense, which is similar to Gruden's.

League rules prevent teams from contacting Garcia until he is released. The Lions and Cardinals also are expected to show interest.

Also, Terry Robiskie, who went 1-4 as interim coach after Davis quit, will stay as Cleveland's wide receivers coach. Jeff Davidson was named offensive line coach and Jerry Rosburg was retained as special-teams coach.

BENGALS: The team added another year to coach Marvin Lewis' contract, extending his deal through the 2008 season.

BUCS: Seven players were allocated to NFL Europe: Mitch White, Kalvin Pearson, Delbert Cowsette, Bryan Save (all to Cologne), Terrance Metcalf, Derek McCoy (both to Hamburg) and Blue Adams (Rhein).

DOLPHINS: The team named Tim Davis assistant offensive line coach and Bert Hill associate strength coach.

CFL: Edmonton's Mike Pringle, the league's all-time leading rusher with 16,425 yards, announced his retirement.

--Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.