tampabay.com

Storm coach calls suspension too severe

Tim Marcum says he expected his cooperation to result in leniency.

By FRANK PASTOR
Published March 24, 2005


TAMPA - One day after the Arena Football League suspended Tim Marcum for four weeks over this and next season for salary-cap violations, the Storm coach and general manager acknowledged Wednesday that "mistakes were made."

Marcum said the Storm was guilty of bookkeeping errors and underreported payments in 2003 but expected leniency after cooperating with a league investigation. "Were mistakes made in 2003? Yes, they were," Marcum said. "But we totally cooperated with the league in the hopes of getting a wrong righted. They came in here. We opened up the books with the idea that we thought we were going to get lenience, and in my opinion, this is not lenience. This is a hard, hard pill to swallow."

As part of a settlement among the Storm, the league and its players' association, Marcum cannot have contact with the team now through April4, which includes games Saturday at Los Angeles and April2 against Georgia, and the first two weeks of next season.

Marcum must pay $25,000 of a $150,000 fine levied against the team, and the Storm will be subject to delays in its ability to sign free agents for 2006 and '07. The Storm also will be placed on probation through '06, and Marcum will remain on probation through '07.

"We agreed to it to get it behind us," Marcum said. "We don't agree with it."

The salary-cap violation is the league's first since the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners was ratified in 2000. Quad City of arenafootball2 was fined $100,000 and banned from the postseason for violations in '02. Previously, the league's biggest punishment was the $25,000 fine Orlando received in '03 for billboards that pictured a model bent over a football and the slogan, "Get Behind Your Team!"

As if he hadn't received enough bad news, Marcum found out Tuesday he was fined $250 for referring to game officials as "clowns" while wearing a wire during a recent NBC telecast.

The salary-cap settlement resulted from an investigation into allegations the Storm made unreported payments to players during the '03 and '04 seasons, the league said in a news release. Specific findings of the investigation are confidential.

Marcum said one point of contention involved payments to players made during the week off between the semifinals and ArenaBowl in 2003.

The Storm paid players at 75 percent of their salaries, the league-mandated rate for an open week during the regular season under the CBA. The team later was told players should have been paid at 50 percent, Marcum said.

"It's unfortunate because (Storm owner Peter "Woody" Kern) and Coach were really trying to help us out, and then the rules changed," lineman Nyle Wiren said. "So it was kind of a gray area, anyway." Kern did not return calls seeking comment.

With the league's permission, Marcum addressed his players before Wednesday's practice, which interim coach Dave Ewart oversaw. Assistant coach Mark Stoute and offensive coordinator and third-string quarterback Pat O'Hara will help Ewart.

"I think the guys are obviously disappointed, and they want to get this one for Coach," Ewart said. "He's definitely the leader of our football team, and any time you lose your leader, there's a little down time or the guys put their heads down.

"But the main thing is keep it all positive and keep them all focused and let them know what the task at hand is. We've got to beat L.A., get back on the winning track and position ourselves for the playoffs."

Receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels said the team will continue to battle as it did last season, when it won its final six games to make the playoffs.

"It's a big blow," Samuels said. "But we've been there. Last year, we were 3-7, and I don't know of any other team that could overcome that. This team did, and we had a shot to keep going. It's unfortunate, but adversity brings out the champion in all of us."