Best Franchise Owner (2000)

Mark Rice, Houston Marshals

After only two games in its inaugural season, the four-team Spring Football League suspended its operations, owing largely to microscopic attendance. But you have to admire Houston investment banker and restaurateur Mark Rice, who owns the league's Houston Marshals franchise (which went a heady 2-0) as well as the three other teams. Rice, chairman of the SFL Board of Governors, apparently plans to press forward next spring (according to the league Web site), expanding the league to eight teams and finding owners for all but the Marshals, which he'll retain. Just how they'll pitch the league remains to be seen, because this year's concept -- combining minor-league football with appearances by former NFL players and concerts by such high-profile bands as Kool & The Gang and the O'Jays -- attracted little interest. Given the legacy of spring football failures, Rice probably will have to toss a bunch more money down the chute to take the field in 2001. Power to him.


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