Malcolm Glazer - Savior of a Franchise

Al Messerschmidt

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers family lost a great one today in Malcolm Glazer.

I hoped it would be a lot longer before I'd have to write this retrospective. God decided he had other plans and called brother Malcolm to paradise. Its a sad day for fans on both sides of the pond.

Malcolm Glazer, Patriarch of the Glazer Family and savior of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is dead at the age of 85.

Without Mr. Glazer, Tampa Bay fans would have never known the thrill of seeing two Hall of Famers wreak havoc on an opposing offense. They wouldn't have seen Mike Alstott crush through defenseless Cleveland Brown defenders, Ronde Barber sticking the dagger into the Eagles and shutting down the vet or Derrick Brooks sealing the Super Bowl Championship.

There would be no pewter power, no Raymond James Stadium and no One Buc Palace.

There would be nothing but an empty Old Sombrero and watching the Buccaneers play in Baltimore or some other city.

You have to understand, folks. Without Malcolm Glazer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have been in Baltimore. It was nearly a done deal. Orioles owner Peter Angelos was hot and heavy after the Bucs. His dream, moving the bumbling team in creamsicle to the Charm city and building a fancy new stadium to house them.

It was in such dire straits that Yankees owner and Tampa native George Steinbrenner was begged to enter the fray to save the franchise for Tampa Bay. He wouldn't unless he had guarantees from Tampa politicians that a stadium would be built.

Angelos wasn't alone, as beer distributor Jerry Clinton looked to move the Bucs to St. Louis.  That same year, the Rams would move to Missouri.

The sharks circled the bay area's team and Glazer was among them. He had Baltimore ties, being part of a prospective ownership group for an expansion franchise in Baltimore.

Steinbrenner would finally put in an offer but well shy of the final price tag. It became the theater of the absurd, with a weird millionaire named Socrates Babacus allegedly putting in a $170 million dollar bid. Babacus sent a letter to the Trust overseeing the sale of the team claiming he would keep the team in Tampa and hire Mike Ditka as coach.

He was full of it and quickly disappeared.

In the end, the Trust sold the Buccaneers to Malcolm Glazer on January 16th, 1995 for a reported $192 million. The Trust turned down a reported $212 million dollar offer from Angelos to buy the team and move it to Baltimore and $163 million dollar offer from the Tampa based owners of the Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain headed by Tommy Shannon.

If it hadn't been for Glazer's bid, the Trust would have had to sell to Angelos, ending the Bucs in Tampa.

Of course, the battle wasn't over. Baltimore plus other locations including Hartford and Orlando didn't give up their pursuit of the Bucs. For the next year, the Glazers and the city saw defeats on both the football field and the voting booths as they struggled to get financing for a new stadium.

The Bucs simply weren't viable at the Old Som. The Glazers had to have their shining new stadium.  For the first year of his ownership, Glazer would do the dance that is all too familiar to Rays owner Stu Sternberg with Tampa politicians. Glazer made no bones about what he needed and there needed to be a plan quickly. There were no shortage of suitors.

After repeated Sales Tax defeats and a defeat of a funding bill in the Florida Legislature, Hillsborough County Commissioner Joe Chillura came up with the Community Investment Tax. The proposal would have a half cent sales tax to improve schools, roads and yes, a new stadium for the Buccaneers.

Polls indicated it probably wasn't going to fly and this was pretty much it.  The vote would take place two days after the Buccaneers opened the season under new coach Tony Dungy. Some believed the Bucs needed to win that game to drum up the support they needed from apathetic fans to put them over the top in the voting booths.

Tampa Bay lost to the Green Bay Packers 34-3.

Shockingly though, the vote passed by the narrowest of margins and Raymond James Stadium was conceived. Baltimore would finally return to the NFL after stealing the Browns from Cleveland.

Many fans held ill will toward Glazer, claiming he held the city for ransom - but in the end, it was his hard work with community leaders that saved the Buccaneers.

The next year, the Bucs would make Bucco Bruce walk the plank and made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

It was Glazer who took a chance on Dungy, when so many others had passed.

The franchise would win it's first and only championship five years later as Glazer again took a chance on a fiery coach from California named Jon Gruden.

Glazer threw himself into the community, his Glazer Family Foundation supporting numerous charities and causes.

Since purchasing the Buccaneers, the losingest franchise in sports at the time, Glazer had presided over 4 division championships, 7 playoff appearances, a conference championship and a Super Bowl title.

As he entered his 19th year of ownership of the franchise, Glazer's team posted a record of 146-158, a .480 winning pct.. Certainly nothing to write home about, but when you consider this team was 87-204-1 with a .297 winning percentage in the previous 19 years with only 3 playoff appearances in franchise history - it's a testament to how he turned this franchise around.

The shame of it is Mr. Glazer won't be around to see the Bucs return to prominence. We can only hope that this year will be about Malcolm and his wish for the best of the community and his team.

Maybe Papa Glazer will be able to watch his Bucs return to the playoffs from the best seat in the house.

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