By Norm Clarke
VSiN Contributing Columnist
With the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas on the ropes, the effort might need all the help it can get, including some divine intervention.
Would former All-Pro NFL quarterback-turned-preacher Randall Cunningham, a UNLV great, like to see it happen? Amen.
He confirmed during an interview with VSiN that he’s confided to friends “that I’d be glad to be a pastor for the players.”
Cunningham turns 54 during the NFL owners’ three-day meeting March 26-28 in Arizona that could decide whether the Raiders will be granted the green light to relocate. That would be a nice birthday.
The Raiders' move appears to be unraveling this week after suffering the double whammy of Las Vegas casino developer billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family withdrawing as investors in the planned $1.9 billion stadium. Goldman Sachs, Adelson's investment banker, followed suit.
The Adelson family had committed $650 million to the stadium project. Another $500 was to come from the Raiders.
The Nevada Legislature approved a plan in October to use $750 million in public money to fund the 65,000-seat stadium through a 1.4 percent hotel tax increase that would also go toward expansion of the convention center.
Clark County Commission chairman Steve Sisolak told Las Vegas' ESPN Radio on Wednesday that the Raiders have assured him “not to worry about (stadium) financing. They have other people lined up.”
The Raiders clearly need a new wingman and some prayers.
Cunningham, who retired from the NFL in 2001 after 16 seasons, became an ordained Protestant minister and founded Remnant Ministries in Las Vegas in 2004.
He’s pulling for Atlanta against New England in the Super Bowl.
It has something to do with a little sibling rivalry with his older brother, Sam “The Bam” Cunningham, 66, who spent his entire career with the Patriots from 1973 to 1982.
There won’t be any friendly bet involved, said Randall Cunningham.
“We don’t gamble,” he said firmly.
Pulling for Atlanta has to be something of a bitter pill to swallow for Randall Cunningham. One of his most devastating losses came in the 1998 NFC championship between his Vikings and the Falcons.
Cunningham's 15-1 Vikings were favored over the 14-2 Falcons, who were 11½-point underdogs.
Minnesota was leading 17-7 with five minutes left in the first half when the Vikings had a sure touchdown pass dropped in the end zone. A short field goal by Gary Anderson made it 20-7. But with the Vikings driving again minutes later, Cunningham got hit from behind and fumbled on the Falcons’ 18-yard line. Atlanta recovered at the 14 and scored to make it 20-14 at the half.
Atlanta got a 27-yard field goal from Morten Andersen early in the second half to make it 20-17 but the Vikings answered with an 82-yard scoring drive to boost their lead to 27-17 with 13-plus minutes in the game.
The Falcons responded with a 70-yard completion that set up a 24-yard field by Andersen. The Vikings drove to Atlanta’s 30-yard line, but Cunningham fumbled a snap and the Falcons recovered. Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a field goal all year, missed. Atlanta drove 79 yards in two minutes to tie it at 27-27 with a 16-yard TD pass with 49 seconds left.
Minnesota had two drives sputter and Atlanta won it in overtime 30-27 on Andersen’s field goal.
“It just wasn’t God’s will,” said Cunningham, who was released by Minnesota in 1999, spent a year with the Dallas Cowboys and ended his career after a year with the Baltimore Ravens.
“When it was done, I was content,” he said.
His passion for football has been replaced by the high jumping prowess of his son Randall Jr. and daughter Vashti.
The younger Randall, who starred at Bishop Gorman, won the NCAA high jump in 2016 with a 7-4½ leap as a 20-year-old at Southern California.
“USC has asked him to play football,” said Cunningham.
Vashti won the world indoor high jump championship in 2016 at 6-6¼ and qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics as an 18-year-old out of Bishop Gorman.
At the Olympics, Vashti failed to medal. “The woman who won, Vashti had beaten in the indoor world championship. Her thing was she had a jumped a lot in the prelims,” said Cunningham, who has coached both.
“I like to see her add another two inches this year,” he said.
He’s in the process of building an indoor facility, “a home for our kids. They’ll have room for weights and a jumping area.”
Cunningham dreams of seeing his kids perform in major indoor meets at T-Mobile Arena.
“That would be awesome,” he said.
THE SCENE AND HEARD
The last time the Super Bowl was played in Houston in 2003, DeAndre Washington was a kid hawking popcorn, candy and snowcones. He went on to star for Texas Tech and was a Raiders rookie running back in 2016.
A public celebration of life for longtime Las Vegas entertainer Tony Sacca will be held Monday at 1:30 p.m. inside the Stratosphere Showroom. He died Tuesday morning after suffering what is believed to be a heart attack. He was 65.
ON THIS DAY IN …
February 3, 2001: The Las Vegas Outlaws defeat the New York/New Jersey Hitmen 19-0 at Sam Boyd Stadium in the inaugural game of the XFL, the upstart football league founded by wrestling mogul Vince McMahon. The Outlaws finish 4-6 and the league folds after one season.
February 4, 1987: Liberace, one of the most popular performers in Las Vegas history who lived in the city for much of his life, dies in Palm Springs, Calif., at 67. Mourners flock to his glitzy museum, which opened in Las Vegas in 1979. But it closes in 2010 and the artifacts of his bedazzled life go into storage.
Attorney Ted Olson, who handled Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” case, appeared at the UNLV Boyd School of Law on Thursday night. He predicted Brady, who lost the case, would even the score in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
THE PUNCH LINE
“Today is Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow, and was immediately captured and detained for extreme vetting. Things have changed since last year, Phil.” – Late-night host Seth Meyers