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Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit get Super Bowls

Updated:

ATLANTA (AP) _ The Super Bowl is headed to Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit.

NFL owners voted Wednesday to award the 2004 championship game to Houston, the 2005 game to Jacksonville, and the 2006 game to Detroit.

Neither Detroit nor Houston had opposition. Jacksonville had competition from Miami and Oakland.

Detroit's delegation was led by Mayor Dennis Archer and racing team owner Roger Penske.

``The checkered flag has fallen,'' said Penske, who two days earlier won the CART championship. ``I told Mayor Archer that I like coming in here a winner. I guess today we're both winners.''

Houston was represented by Mayor Lee Brown and Bob McNair, owner of the Texans expansion team that will begin play in 2002.

As part of his $700 million entry fee, McNair was promised a Super Bowl as soon as possible. It will come at the end of the Texans' second season at their new 69,500-seat retractable roof stadium, under construction next to the Astrodome.

Houston first played host to the Super Bowl in 1974 at Rice Stadium. The city had a bitter split with the NFL in 1996 when the Oilers left for Tennessee, but Wednesday's decision brought the reconciliation full circle.

``It shows the strength of the city and the resiliency of the community to go through such a downer and turn it around in such a short period of time,'' McNair said.

Detroit also is getting its second Super Bowl. The 1982 game was played at the suburban Pontiac Silverdome.

In 2006, the Super Bowl will be played at a new downtown domed stadium, Ford Field.

``It really speaks volumes about how the city is coming back,'' Archer said, adding that he hopes the NFL's decision would convince Major League Baseball to award an All-Star game to Detroit.

Miami has played host to eight Super Bowls already, while Jacksonville planned on bringing in cruise ships for extra hotel space. Oakland, embroiled in a dispute with Raiders owner Al Davis, had been given little chance of winning.

The major decision Tuesday was unanimous approval of a new scheduling formula when the Texans join the NFL in 2002, creating a 32-team league.

The league will abandon its current six-division alignment and go to eight four-team divisions _ four in each conference.

Under the new format, each team will play six games within its division (home-and-away against the other three teams), four games against another division within its conference, four games against a division in the other conference and two games within the conference based on the previous year's standings.

Those final two games were the main sticking point, with some owners wanting to preserve them for traditional or regional rivalries after realignment.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that wouldn't work out.

``The concept of natural rivalries breaks down about halfway through the league, no matter how you define natural rivalries,'' he said.

Instead, a first-place team would play the other two first-place teams from its conference that are not already on the schedule, a second-place team would play the other two second-place teams, etc.

The commissioner said the league hopes to reach agreement on realignment by its March meeting. He stressed that no teams will receive financial compensation for moving to a new conference or division.

Once again, Tagliabue and the owners skirted the issue of whether Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy violated the salary cap while he ran the San Francisco 49ers.

Tagliabue said there are major differences between Policy and the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, who were fined $3.5 million and stripped of five first-round draft picks for secret deals to skirt their league's salary cap.

``In the NBA case, it was open and shut,'' Tagliabue said. ``We don't have anything like that.''

The commissioner said a ruling on Policy's actions would be linked with the NFL's broader efforts to eliminate loopholes in the salary cap. No decision was made in Atlanta.

Policy maintains he did nothing wrong, though he concedes others might have a different interpretation of his actions.

He said comparing his troubles to the NBA case is ``like looking at the difference between speeding and premeditated murder.''

The claims against Policy stem from his eight-year tenure as president and CEO of the San Francisco 49ers.

He built a reputation as one of the league's brightest front-office executives. But, in keeping the 49ers on top, he was accused of bending the NFL's salary-cap rules, especially during the 1997 season.

The league's management council has spent the past year reviewing the contracts of former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young, tight end Brent Jones and QB Jim Druckenmiller.

Davis called for Policy to receive a one-year suspension, saying it wouldn't be enough for Tagliabue to impose a hefty fine.

``We're dealing with the credibility of the league on the field,'' Davis said. ``The punishment should be swift and severe.''

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