Football, anyone?

Responding to a May 1 deadline for proposals, only one bidder submitted a plan to bring pro football back to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

That bidder, a group led by Majestic Realty Co. President Ed Roski Jr., submitted an extensive letter of interest outlining a $400 million plan that largely mirrors Roski's failed bid to bring an expansion team here last October.

Noticeably absent was Hollywood powerbroker Michael Ovitz, who remains interested in bringing an NFL team to L.A. but did not submit a Coliseum proposal.

Ovitz's group was one of several that had corresponded with the Coliseum Commission but ultimately balked at its stipulation that only the Coliseum be considered by any NFL owner interested in relocating to the L.A. area.

Ovitz's decision not to bid on the Coliseum suggests that the lack of unity that undermined L.A.'s bid for an NFL expansion team last fall will likely remain an obstacle to the area's efforts to land a team relocating from somewhere else.

"It's a little disappointing, but it's a difficult deal, and we were asking for a lot," said Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch.

Roski's bid will be considered by the commission this week, and given his long-term association with the Coliseum in the effort to bring professional football back to L.A., it is likely to be met with favor.

But there is an inherent Catch-22 in the deal, as renovation is not going to happen without a commitment from a team to move to L.A., Lynch said, while a team is unlikely to do so without some guarantee that renovation would proceed.

"It's sort of a chicken-and-egg deal," said J.K. McKay, a vice president at Majestic and executive director of football operations for Roski's New Coliseum Ventures. "What we want to do is put a package in place to provide certainty for a team wanting to relocate."

Under terms of the proposal, a team would play in the Rose Bowl while the Coliseum undergoes a refurbishing that would take an estimated 18 to 24 months.

Roski was out of the country and unavailable for comment last week, but McKay said he was "a little surprised" that Ovitz decided not to put forth his own plan for the Coliseum.

An Ovitz spokesman declined comment, but the Hollywood talent manager has been building a substantial sports practice at his new company, Artists Management Group, and continues to do deals with billionaire Ron Burkle, who helped fund Ovitz's efforts to bring a team to L.A. last year.

But unlike then, when landing a new franchise would have catapulted Ovitz to the exclusive ranks of the NFL owners' club, luring an existing team to L.A. is less glamorous because it would mean taking a back seat to an existing owner. In contrast, while Roski has said he wants to become a minority partner in any team that comes here (as a way to provide a local base of support), he wouldn't insist on it, McKay said.

"It would change the terms of the deal, but it wouldn't mean we wouldn't do the deal," he said.

Should any deal go forward, at least one controversy would be avoided: the use of public funds. One reason the NFL awarded the expansion franchise to Houston and not to either Roski or Ovitz was the ability of Houston billionaire Bob McNair to secure around $300 million in public money as part of the record $700 million franchise fee paid to the NFL.

When the NFL owners made it clear that they thought the L.A. groups should commit to some kind of public financing and up their franchise fee proposals, local opposition was fierce.

But an existing team won't require a franchise fee, so the use of public funds is essentially moot. Roski's plan calls for a $150 million loan from the NFL, a $50 million historic tax credit that applies to the redeveloping of state property (the Coliseum is owned by the state), and a ticket sales tax.

"The NFL will have far less influence on directing cash flow," said local sports consultant David Carter. "(Roski) has much more latitude in working with a relocating franchise."

The downside, however, is that marketing a team with a history elsewhere is likely to be more difficult than marketing one that starts fresh in L.A., Carter said.

So the remaining question is, who are the likely candidates?

Until recently, the candidates were the Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings, in that order of probability. But at the last minute, Arizona lawmakers put a $1.8 billion plan for a new stadium on the November ballot, so the Cardinals are unlikely to do anything until those votes are in.

Lurking in the background, of course, is Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders, but the Coliseum Commission is adamantly opposed to dealing with the man who rendered L.A. teamless in 1995.

But feelers are out to and from other teams, and the commission wants to move forward to ensure that the doors remain open for a possible move. And there is at least some optimism that things are moving forward, even as Ovitz's intentions are unknown.

"This time, we're only trying to satisfy one owner, not the entire NFL," Lynch said.

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