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Making it work


The venue for Shahid Khan's whirlwind week changed yet again on Friday. His message again did not.

Khan, who on Wednesday in Dallas received unanimous approval from the NFL's 32 owners to assume ownership of the Jaguars, on Friday afternoon made his first public appearance in Jacksonville as the franchise's owner to be. As he did, he reiterated what he said two days before.

His goal is to win a Super Bowl. And his objective is to do it in Jacksonville.

 "We are committed to this community, and we are going to keep on carrying the work that was started here in perpetuity," Khan said Friday at a 3 p.m. news conference at EverBank Field.

"Hopefully, we will move it up a notch."

Khan is expected to assume control of the team on January 4, 2012, taking over for Wayne Weaver, the Jaguars' owner since 1993.

"He's really committed to making a difference in this community both on and off the field with the Jaguars," Weaver said of Khan. "That makes Delores and I very proud, that they're going to come in and take the reins of this franchise and take it to the next level."

Khan, who a day after receiving approval of NFL owners attended the Jaguars' prime-time Thursday night loss in Atlanta, attended Friday's event with his wife, Ann, saying, "We have lived the American Dream – and if there was one thing missing in our lives, it was an NFL franchise."

Khan, the owner of Flex-N-Gate, Corp., moved to the United States to attend the University of Illinois at the age of 16, and said his NFL dream began in the basement of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house.

"The good thing is, our bucket list is totally done," Khan said of him and his wife. "There was one thing on it. It's scratched off. Now, we're starting obviously a new bucket list with a Super Bowl championship right on top."

Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown attended Friday's news conference, as did Jacksonville City Council President Stephen Joost as well as Jaguars minority partners David Seldin, Tom Petway, Ron Weaver, Sandy McArthur and Lawrence DuBow.

Khan on Friday met with city leaders, and also met with the Jaguars' front office staff. He said he has not yet met with the players, but he said he plans to do so as soon as possible.

Khan said the first order of business is to learn quickly, then "to put the leadership where we're going to be more successful on the field." The Jaguars are 4-10 this season after finishing 8-8 last season.

Mel Tucker currently is the interim coach of the Jaguars, having taken over November 29 for Jack Del Rio. Khan said finding a coach is an immediate priority and that Tucker will be a candidate.

"There's a lot to build upon," he said. "There are a lot of building blocks here. In my opinion, this is not a tear-down project, by any means. It's more of a remodeling project with some of the missing pieces that can really complete the big picture."

Khan also said a primary goal is to increase demand for tickets, and midway through the press conference he held a Jaguars ticket aloft.

"This ticket to the Jaguars is going to be the hottest ticket in the business – not only here, but really when the team is away," Khan said, adding, "Frankly I'm going to be really disappointed if we have to have a blackout.

"I think we've got to engage the fans. This is not a one-way street. I'm going to do everything in my power to be relevant, to commit to Jacksonville, but this is a two-way street. The fans have to support us and the idea is again a very virtuous circle. Fans support us, we support the team in Jacksonville and together in tandem we move up."

Khan talked extensively Friday of reenergizing the fan base, and a rebirth of the franchise.

"They used to be sold out here a number of years ago, so this is really kind of a recent trend," he said of the team's efforts to sell tickets and avert blackouts. "And frankly I've been very encouraged by some of the social media and some of the movement here since the sale was announced, so I'm very, very optimistic that we will reconnect with the fans and they will want to come out and support us."

Khan stressed on several occasions the relationship between fans and team.

 "I think it starts with winning quite frankly, and then developing a fan base," he said. "You have to be pragmatic.  In the Midwest for example, there are a lot of franchises that don't win and people still go to them for the very simple reason they've been there for a long time. They went to a game with their grandfather or father.

"We don't have that here. This is a young franchise, so generating and developing the next generation of fans is very important.  I think that's vital. So if there is some kind of a connection and then having relatives or fans elsewhere in the country who are also going to watch."

Khan said it's important to build support not only locally, but nationally and internationally, and said he hopes to "develop an international fan base."

"The NFL is going to be developing an international fan base," Khan said. "Why shouldn't it be the Jaguars?  Wayne can address it, there was certainly until a couple weeks ago some move-o-phobia, for lack of a better word, that the team might move and you just don't want to do anything that would really affect that. But to me I'm very open. I think it would serve Jacksonville well to play a game or two overseas, to get the name Jacksonville out.

"If you look at some of the international premier league teams, they have a huge fan following overseas – the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, etc. I think the NFL in the long run will probably be doing something like that. Why shouldn't we be one of the flag carriers? Even if it's a dozen fans who come to Jacksonville and avail of some of the facilities here – hotels, restaurants, whatever.

"I think it's in Jacksonville Jaguars' interest to really get our hat in the ring and really actively pursue to play a game or two overseas."

Khan said fan support is critical to the success of the team, and that that was an issue that went beyond the team's financial viability.

 "You have to fill the stands," he said. "It's not just the money. You need the enthusiasm. You need the support. You need the energy. You need the energy for the players."

He also added that financial viability did indeed remain critical, saying, "To me, you have to be fiscally responsible.

"That's why you have to fill the seats," he said. "That's a really big point. You don't want to be in this business pushing water up hill. I'm here because I want to make this work."

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