The Detroit News
WHEELS' SALE TO N.C. GROUP PENDING
The future of the pro football Wheels in Detroit is uncertain at best.
The Detroit News has learned that only a last-minute vote by the club's executive committee prevented the World Football League team from leaving Detroit in time to play next Wednesday's scheduled home game in Charlotte, N.C.
Representatives of the Wheels met with a group of North Carolina investors in Charlotte last week and it was proposed at that time by the prospective purchasers that he club he moved immediately.
Since the transaction could not be completed on such short notice, the was putt off temporarily, The News' sources say.
The North Carolina group felt the game against Memphis, a traditional Southern rival, would provide a perfect showcase for the Wheels in their new home.
The sale of the club appears imminent. The Wheel's executive committee, headed by team President Louis R. Lee held its weekly meeting early today but no immediate announcement was made as to what transpired. Before the meeting David Pollack, the 60-year-old chairman of the committee confirmed that there had been discussions with people from Charlotte, "but nothing definite had been done yet."
All but a few of the 32 owners were present at today's meeting and there was speculation some of them might be interest in purchasing the club rather than let the franchise be moved to another city.
A source close to the Wheels told The News yesterday, "We're in financial trouble, big trouble, and we've been in trouble all along."
The North Carolina group is similar in its makeup to the Wheels' ownership in that it involves a number of people. However, it does not include any Charlotte businessmen and a prominent name is missing.
Mayor John Belk of Charlotte, a wealthy department store owner with a lot of clout, is not interested in the WFL. Belk has stores throughout the Southeast.
"I don't know why we'd take the Detroit Wheels," Belk said, "when we could have had the WFL, team that is now in Memphis. The Memphis team is better, you know."
The North Carolina group has selected Charlotte as its home because it has a stadium which is not used by any colleges and would not create conflict. Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 25,000 and was built with WPA funs in the mid-1930's.
The Wheels have an 0-5 won-lost record. Next Wednesday's scheduled game with Memphis will be their third at Rynearson Stadium on the Eastern Michigan University campus at Ypsilanti, Detroit's home field.
In their first two home games, the Wheels drew 10,631 and 14,614 well below expectations.
For the time being, the Wheels will have to settle for any bright spot they can find in lieu of their first victory.
The Wheels lost their firth straight game Wednesday night in Birmingham, Ala., to the Americans, 28-22. Birmingham scored with only 26 seconds left to pull out the victory after Detroit had taken a 22-20 lead with 1:09 left.
The Wheels didn't arrive home until 5 a.m. yesterday and Coach Dan Boisture gave the team the day off.
But Boisture was at the Wheel's office later in the day and conferred with Sonny Grandelius, the club's vice-president and general manager, and several of the owners. Then he sat down to the business of preparing for the Memphis game.
"The schedule just won't let up on us," Boisture said. "We've played all the tough teams and we've got a couple more coming up. Where are all the easy teams?"
Boisture has a valid point. Detroit's opponents in its first five games (Memphis, Florida, Hawaii and Birmingham, twice) have a combine record of 14-6, and only one Hawaii, is under .500. Birmingham is 5-0. The Wheels have been out of only one game, the opener at Memphis.
"I said after our first loss to Birmingham that our morale was good and I think it's even better now, Boisture said, "Our players are winners. They've got what it takes.
"They're mad right now. They're mad at themselves and at their record.
"We're young, especially on defense. Our oldest player on defense is only 24 and the others are all in their early 20's. They're still learning and improving.
The Wheels were hurt by the sudden loss of linebacker Sam Britts, whose status remains uncertain. Edmonton of the Canadian League filed an injunction to keep Britts from playing with the Wheels.
Reportedly, the Wheels have not settled their purchase agreement for Britts with the CFL team.
"Britts is a good one," Boisture said. "We predicated out entire defense around him and then we didn't have him. It created some problems. But we still played that team (Birmingham) almost even in two games ant that has to be encouraging."
Then he quickly added, "But it's no consolation."
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