- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

The Minnesota Vikings can’t stay out of trouble. If now-departed receiver Randy Moss wasn’t hitting traffic cops or mooning fans, prospective owner Reggie Fowler was inflating his resume.

And now coach Mike Tice is being investigated for scalping Super Bowl tickets.

Tice’s visit from NFL security drew shudders around the league because many NFL employees are suspected of having scalped tickets, even though they are required to sign a document that they won’t do so. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Vikings running backs coach Dean Dalton also is being investigated.

Tice, formerly the Vikings’ offensive line coach, denied a report that as head coach he pressured players to give him their Super Bowl tickets to sell for a profit. Tice received a one-year contract extension at the end of last season but remains the NFL’s lowest-paid head coach at $1 million.

About a quarter of Super Bowl tickets are distributed to teams, with participating clubs receiving 17.5 percent and the host team getting 5 percent. That leaves just 1.2 percent (roughly 800 tickets in 2004) to be divided among the other 29 teams. On top of that, each NFL player can buy a pair of Super Bowl tickets for $600.

“If I’m guilty of anything, I’m guilty of telling coaches that it’s OK to sell their tickets,” Tice told ESPN.

Former Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury, now an ESPN analyst, said that like almost all players, he had scalped his Super Bowl tickets when he was playing. Cornerback Fred Smoot, who just left Washington for Minnesota, said he gives his tickets to relatives.

“Even if [Tice] did sell Super Bowl tickets, it’s not like it hurts anybody,” Smoot said.

Depending on the amount of unreported profit, Tice likely won’t face a legal penalty other than paying back taxes and interest. But he could be punished by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, although Vikings owner Red McCombs thinks Tice will be cleared.

“When the league finishes looking at it, I’m confident things will be fine,” said Tice, who is on shaky ground with a career 24-27 record and an ownership change coming.

Ironically, the story on the Star Tribune’s Web site is followed by ads for “VIP Tickets” and “Ticket Brokers-All Events.”

And he’s even not named Laveranues — After being franchised for the third straight year, Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius said he wanted to be traded and asked for the right to shop himself.

Then Darius, who has yet to reach a Pro Bowl in seven seasons, said he would deign to stay put for the $4.97 million tender although he wouldn’t “respect” the Jaguars as much as he had. But Darius, 29, wasn’t done. He e-mailed the Star Tribune and the Miami Herald, saying he would love to play for the Vikings or Dolphins. The Jaguars finally had enough and gave agent Tom Condon permission to seek a trade.

Going, going … — With the news that Indianapolis is replacing its despised Astroturf with a more modern artificial surface at RCA Dome, St. Louis has the last remaining original fake grass field in the NFL. And the Rams are not happy about it.

“We have to have a new [surface] next year,” coach Mike Martz said. “If I’m a player, I would refuse to play on that surface.”

Bruce Sommer, director of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) that runs Edward Jones Dome, acknowledged the need for a new field but said it won’t be replaced until a model is designed that can be removed and stored for non-football events.

“If they want a new turf as much as we do, they’d do it,” Martz said of the CVC. “The RCA Dome has proven that it can be done.”

Indeed it has, to the tune of up to $1.7 million, but Indianapolis has a separate convention center next door. St. Louis holds its convention type events in Jones Dome, which Sommer said requires drilling into the concrete floor and installing dozens of electrical outlets — impossible with a permanent surface.

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