NFC South: Champions Square

The New Orleans Saints officially announced a series of re-structuring moves at the top positions in their organization Sunday afternoon.

Most significantly, Dennis Lauscha, who previously was executive vice president/chief financial officer, has been promoted to team president. Rita Benson LeBlanc, who is the granddaughter of owner Tom Benson and previously held the titles of owner and executive vice president, now becomes the vice chairman of the board. The team said LeBlanc will expand her duties to include enhanced management responsibilities with Zelia, LLC, which includes such properties as Benson Tower, Champions Square and various interests in automotive, real estate, banking and multi-media platforms, including New Orleans television Fox 8 (WVUE).

I don’t think the shakeup has anything to do with the bounty scandal. Instead, it comes after Benson agreed to purchase the New Orleans Hornets and his other businesses continue to grow.

“With the continued growth of our holdings and various interests, it makes perfect sense at this point in time to announce the growth of our upper management structure,” Benson said. “We have seen the visibility and vastness of our holdings increase and that requires more management responsibilities and I’m confident that the leadership skills of Rita, Dennis and Mickey (Loomis) will continue to flourish given their enhanced responsibilities.”

There had been previous reports that LeBlanc was on administrative leave due to conflict with her grandfather. Benson downplayed those reports, saying LeBlanc had taken a vacation and that her role is expanding, not being reduced.

Loomis will continue to serve in his role as executive vice president and general manager, although he will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season for his role in the bounty program. Since the arrival of coach Sean Payton in 2006, Benson has allowed Payton and Loomis pretty much full control of football operations.

Lauscha make take on some added roles, including helping oversee the Hornets, but he has been instrumental in running the Saints’ business matters for 15 years and that’s expected to contiule. Lauscha will continue in his role on the team’s board of directors and will continue to oversee financial operations of the team. He’ll take on the added duties of overseeing the team’s marketing, ticket operations, legal department and community affairs.

Saints to host 'Gleason Gras'

November, 10, 2011
The New Orleans Saints are planning a big event to raise awareness for Amyothrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and the Gleason Family Trust.

Former New Orleans player Steve Gleason has been diagnosed with ALS. The Saints will host "Gleason Gras'' at Champions Square from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., CT, on Nov. 27.

The event will feature music by Better Than Ezra, former Saints player Kyle Turley and others. There also will be an autograph tent featuring several Saints and fans will be allowed to see the Lombardi Trophy from the Saints’ Super Bowl victory.

Tickets go on sale Friday at 6 p.m. and can be purchased online at or the New Orleans Arena box office. Tickets are $20 each with a $3 service charge per order.

The event will be held the day before the Saints host the New York Giants in a “Monday Night Football’’ game.

“This is a player and a family that, aside from our prayers, needs our help,’’ New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. “His battle with this disease and his family’s battle with this disease are difficult enough, but the proceeds will go to a trust for Steve Gleason and his family. The one thing about this city is we’ve always found a way to rally around difficult times or certainly a person in need. I know this is a great cause. It’s easy for me to sit here and talk about our willingness to help and I think our fans and the people who have met Steve Gleason or at least know him even a little will find an opportunity to support this.’’
The New Orleans Saints were quick to emphatically shoot down a report out of Canada that they were on a short list of teams that could be relocated to Toronto.

“Reports about the Saints as a potential team moving to Toronto are completely false," team spokesman Greg Bensel said. “The New Orleans Saints are committed to the city of New Orleans."

Bensel quickly pointed to the simple facts. The Saints signed a new agreement with the state of Louisiana in 2009 that runs through 2025. Bensel said the deal includes an option for five years beyond that, which will “have our team playing in front of the greatest fans in the NFL for many years to come."

Part of the 2009 agreement called for Saints owner Tom Benson to buy and refurbish two office buildings that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and Champions Square was built next to the Superdome. The deal also included more than $300 million in upgrades to the Superdome. The first series of upgrades was performed last offseason and the final stage is taking place right now.

It’s all part of a plan that helped earn New Orleans the right to host the 2013 Super Bowl.

The report was based on statements by prominent Toronto figure Doug Ford, the brother of Toronto mayor Rob Ford. I think Doug Ford was doing more wishful thinking than anything when he said the Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars were “in play’’ as possible relocation candidates.

Although the Saints reportedly had strong flirtations with San Antonio in the uncertain aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they are more firmly entrenched in New Orleans now than they’ve ever been. They’ve sold out every game since the re-opening of the Superdome in 2006 and have a lengthy waiting list for season tickets.

There’s no way I can see the Saints leaving New Orleans.

Saints send message to fans

March, 12, 2011
Throughout all the labor talks New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and the rest of the franchise’s brain trust remained virtually silent. But now that there officially is a lockout, the Saints became the first NFC South team to publically address its fans.

They sent out a lengthy e-mail to the media this morning. They didn’t attribute the statement to Benson or anyone in particular. They just said it was a team statement, so ultimately you can say these are Benson’s words, since he’s the top figure in the franchise.

Here’s the statement in its entirety.

“The expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players’ union is an unfortunate and serious situation. The Saints organization is concerned for the people involved, especially for the great fans of our game, and particularly those of our team. We take this current period sincerely and are resolute in our determination to reach a common accord. We remain confident that meaningful dialogue between the league and the players’ union will continue until such time that a resolution is reached.

“To that end the Saints organization will continue to make plans for a highly successful future, both in 2011 and beyond. We are striving to improve in every area. Our football operations are preparing for the draft, our coaches continue to prepare for football and our business operations continue to work closely with our sponsors and our fans, to make sure that they are also prepared for football.

“We are intent on delivering more to our fans, through the millions invested in Superdome improvements to create a state of the art facility for our fans to enjoy Saints football, coupled with the Benson’s family’s investment in Champions Square, in an area previously left underused and blighted for years. The team is also proud of the multi-million dollar investment in the Airline Drive practice facility to make it second to none in the NFL. And throughout, we will continue to be a leader in youth development and community outreach initiatives that are model programs within the NFL year-to-year. We, as an organization, will never forget the tragedy of Katrina and how with the help of our fans we survived and together were able to win our first Super Bowl championship.

“It is important to our organization that we remain in contact with our valued fans throughout this process. Our fans have been integral to our success and we welcome our fans to stay engaged with us as we prepare for football and we will keep all of you fully informed.’’

Can’t say there is any major news in that. But I think the Saints did exactly what they should do in this situation. They told their fans they’ll continue moving forward with all their operations to prepare for the 2011 season, and did it in a reassuring tone.

Gee, kind of makes you wonder why the other three NFC South teams and more teams around the league aren’t making at least some gesture to their fans? Benson has taken his knocks through the years, and some of it is deserved. But, in this case, I think he's way ahead of most of the owners. He has a great fan base, he knows it and he's willing to pledge to keep moving forward in a time of uncertainty. That's precisely what he needed to do and what a lot of other owners need to do.