General small-market uncertainty
The fans don't want it to happen, people within the Jaguars organization such as former Jaguar Tony Boselli don't want it to happen and the staunchly proud city of Jacksonville, Fla., really doesn't want it to happen. The NFL and the Jaguars' new owner haven't put a move out of the question, however, and that has to trouble Jacksonville fans most.
The Jaguars and their fans have done everything in their power to keep the stadium full and the team in town. The Jaguars tarped off seats in
Field, hosted ticket drives on their website and convinced sponsors such as
to buy up tickets and keep games on television.
That may not be enough, though. The one Super Bowl that Jacksonville hosted in 2005 was considered an off-field disaster, with floating hotels brought in to make up for Jacksonville's lack of accommodations and festivities kept to a dull roar by the city's low-key nightlife. The team itself has never made the Super Bowl and hasn't played a playoff game since since 2007. Last year's 5-11 season was bad enough to cost coach Jack Del Rio his job.
That wasn't even the worst news Jaguars fans got last year. The team was sold by longtime owner and Jacksonville loyalist Wayne Weaver to Illinois auto parts mogul Shahid Khan for $760 million. That solidified Jacksonville as one of the league's least-valuable franchise by making the entire brand worth less than most NFL teams' stadiums. Khan has since refused to commit to a future in Jacksonville and refused the NFL's offer to lower the team's blackout threshold to 85% capacity.
Khan hasn't made any noise about moving the team and poured $3 million of his own money into a new locker room for the team. Beyond that, he has a lease at EverBank Field until 2029 that the city's lawyers nearly terminated this spring over a misunderstanding about the team's search for a facilities manager. That default letter gaffe and the team's attendance struggles amid a tough economic climate don't bode well for Jacksonville, however. Despite fan efforts and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's door-to-door campaign to fill seats for Sunday home games, the Jaguars' struggles indicate that a move to Los Angeles is possible, if not inevitable. If that's the case, stringing Jacksonville fans along for seasons at a time is crueler than any home game blackout could be.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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