Interview With Michael McCaskey
By Philip Hersh, Tribune reporter
9:13 p.m. CDT, October 24, 2010
Days before the Bears' 17-14 loss to the Redskins, team chairman Michael McCaskey talked with the Tribune about three football issues: the NFL's expiring collective bargaining agreement, the limitations of Soldier Field and Lovie Smith's job.
Tribune: Could a labor agreement be reached by the end of this season? Do you believe a work stoppage is inevitable?
McCaskey: I believe it's possible to get to an agreement. This enterprise my grandfather helped found and grow over the years has turned out to be the most watched and popular sport in America, and all of us — players, coaches, fans, sponsors, TV networks — get so much out of it and benefit so handsomely from it, and that stands to continue. Surely there is a way to divide the economic pie and decide on work rules in a way that continues the prosperity and appeal of the game. … (But) the agreement will not be reached soon.
Tribune: Soldier Field has 15,000 fewer seats than many others in the NFL now. Is the seating capacity going to be an issue before the lease is up?
McCaskey: It is a challenge we have. We are in the second largest market among football cities in the United States, and we have the smallest stadium, so that puts a challenge on the shoulders of the Bears to find ways to increase revenues even while staring in the face of that limited capacity. It can't be changed. … There is no way structurally to significantly augment the number of seats. We have added a few here and there.
Tribune: Which brings you back to the old question of another stadium.
McCaskey: No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. We have the best stadium in the NFL, and that will remain true for some years to come.
(wait for the stumble...)
Tribune: Short of reaching the Super Bowl, can you envision a scenario in which the Bears could extend Smith's contract before the end of the 2011 season? Will he have to complete his current contract before receiving a new one? And then the overriding question …
McCaskey: It's way too early to worry about those kinds of things. Lovie is doing a, uh, is a terrific coach and I have all the confidence in him in the world. We have got to win more games and finish stronger at the end of the season, but in my mind there is no requirement he win the Super Bowl in order to continue on as the Bears' head coach.