SAN DIEGO – It’s a little known fact that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones almost bought the Chargers.
Decades ago, Jones threw his hat in the ring to purchase the San Diego Chargers.
FOX 5 asked Jones what the Chargers would be like today if he had bought them. Jones would not speculate on “what ifs,” but said for sure he would have been a very active owner has he has been with the Cowboys.
Jones was 23 years old, broke and had just graduated from University of Arkansas with a business degree when the idea that he could somehow buy a pro football team.
In 1966, Jones was “whisper close” to purchasing the San Diego Chargers, but came up short.
“Really you were dealing with aspiration,” Jones said. “I wanted to be involved in sports.”
He loitered around hotel lobbies during NFL and AFL meetings hoping rich owners would notice his passion for the game.
“I’d just hang out maybe just to rub elbows and get some of it around me, too,” Jones said. “Just being part of the future of pro football.”
Jones learned the Chargers were for sale and got owner Barron Hilton to agree to a $5.8 million asking price.
“When I was interested in the San Diego Chargers, it was a unique situation and I had a tie in with financing,” Jones told FOX 5.
But for the deal to move ahead, Jones needed $50,000 to keep exclusive negotiating rights for 90 days. He asked his father for the cash, but when he wouldn’t give it to him, Jones had to withdraw his offer.
“I was making a $1,000 a month as a hustling insurance salesman,” Jones said. “It showed my dreams of wanting to be involved.”
Had he pulled it off, Jones wouldn’t be sitting in a Texas office. Instead, he might have been at the Chargers owners’ compound in Mission Valley or even in La Jolla, as he told a Dallas Morning News reporter in 2013.
In 1989, Jones fulfilled his wish and bought the Cowboys. While he never was able to buy the Bolts and eventually replace the now aging Qualcomm Stadium, he did secure financing and created a $1.6 billion sports palace in Arlington, better known as Jerry’s World.
“I thought it had passed me by until I probably had better success that I should have or deserved,” Jones said.
Over the years, Jerry Jones has proven he has plenty of power in the NFL. His swagger and sway is well-respected by other owners, including Oakland Raiders Chief Mark Davis, who sought Jones advice over a possible move to Las Vegas.
The billionaire said there’s a huge amount of people, including other league owners, who are very interested in having a team in San Diego.
“We have a constituency here of a real need and that is financial responsibility to build stadium and to put the show on so to speak,” Jones said.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked during Super Bowl LI about the future of a team returning to San Diego, he said there’s no hope unless a new stadium situation can be worked out.
The 74-year-old Jones said the Bolts move to Los Angeles turned his stomach, but has finally come to terms with it.
“The Chargers have left San Diego — that’s not good. I don’t like that,” Jones told FOX 5 while at the NFL Honors program.
Jones said it’s great to have football back in Los Angeles, but he was pushing for Chargers owner Dean Spanos and San Diego officials to strike a stadium deal.
“We are very much sensitive about our fans, the amount of fans and the interest in San Diego,” said Jones.