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January will be active month


The following is a transcript of a question and answer session between Senior Writer Vic Ketchman and Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver.

VK: How close did the Browns game come to being blacked out?

WW: Real close; CBS stepped up at the last minute and offered to purchase our tickets. Without that, we clearly would've blacked out. CBS called us and obviously it was in their interest not to black out. This week is going to be in doubt, again. Clearly, we've got a long way to go with the Arizona game. I'm not so sure that it's not something we need to do to let fans sitting home watching television that this is not something they can take for granted; that the game is going to be televised. We need our fans in the stands as our 12th man. I will tell you that if we're as short as I think we're going to be, there's no way anyone is going to step up and pull our bacon out of the fire. I'd say we're several thousand tickets away.

VK: You've had situations that when the weather is not good ...

WW: It's easier to stay home and watch it on television. Our fans just can't take for granted that if they don't show up for games that we're not going to black out. If we black out a couple of games, we may cut back on those no-shows.

VK: Is there a learning period that goes with having an NFL team for the first time?

WW: Our market has been spoiled to a certain degree. We've had great success. We've never blacked out a regular-season game in our almost six years, so I do think that with a blackout here or there, people are going to get the message that they can't sit home and watch these on the couch; that they need to be in the stands and we need their support. We've got to do a better job. I'm never going to put all of the blame on the fans if we don't sell out, because we've got to do a better job of marketing our team. There was so much euphoria in this market place when we first got the team. We had people standing in line to get tickets. That's not the case today. I keep repeating myself, but after a certain amount of time people begin to take for granted that if they don't go to the game, they'll be able to see the game on TV, or they can pick up tickets at their leisure and they don't need season tickets and that tickets are readily available. We've got to do a better job of marketing and we've got to do a better job of selling our season tickets. It's a negative if you don't sell out. I'll be the first to tell you that for our market our stadium is too big, but I can also point to markets like Kansas City, which is not a lot larger than ours, that has more seats than we do but has a 15,000-30,000 waiting listing list for season tickets. So, I believe they've done a better marketing job than we have. They have more history and tradition, but I can remember investigating different teams and markets around the league and finding that Kansas City, as short a time as maybe 10-11 years ago, only had 23,000 season tickets sold. They changed the way they were doing things and obviously they've had more success, and today they have 69,000 season ticket holders.

VK: What were some of the marketing things Kansas City did?

WW: They did an outstanding marketing job in reaching out to smaller markets outside the Kansas City metropolitan area. We have not done a good job of that. We have not reached out to Gainesville, Tallahassee, Daytona, Savannah, Valdosta. We've got great fans in those areas. We've just got to give those people some attention and cater to them a little bit, and give them some incentives to come here for game days.

VK: When you created this franchise, did you perceive it as a regional franchise?

WW: I did. The truth is that when you analyze our season ticket base, 98 percent of it is right here in Greater Jacksonville.

VK: Your fans' greatest interest seems to lie with the changes this team is going to undergo during the offseason. How soon after the season ends will change begin?

WW: The winds of change are almost of tornado-like proportions right now. We're really working hard to try to analyze the different scenarios we're dealing with, as far as how we put this team together for 2001. I really and truly believe that if we're going to get to the Super Bowl in the next few years, it's going to be with Mark Brunell as our quarterback. I believe that with my entire heart, but I'm also not naïve. The only way we're going to get to the Super Bowl is to have a strong cast of players around that quarterback. We've got to figure out how do we keep Mark Brunell, how do we re-sign Kevin Hardy, how do we keep Jimmy Smith happy? I could go on and on. It's critical that we're fair to Fred Taylor and make sure he wants to be a part of this franchise. We've got a lot of stuff to do. We've got to keep the core of this team together, but at the same time you can't wind up with your marquee players earning 70 percent of the money.

VK: When this season ends, do the decisions have to come quickly?

WW: It does have to happen fast. If we can't get some of the things done we want to get done, then we're going to have to shift gears very quickly and move into different directions. January is absolutely the month when things are going to happen around here.

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