NFL makes deal, moves Super Bowl to Feb. 3

Playoffs intact

game stays in New Orleans

October 04, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

After two weeks of complicated negotiations, the NFL has struck a deal with the National Automobile Dealers Association that will push the Super Bowl back to Feb. 3 and enable the league to retain its 12-team playoff format.

The NFL will pay the car dealers $7.5 million to switch dates in the Louisiana Superdome and agreed to match NADA contributions of up to $500,000 to the Sept. 11 relief efforts.

That outcome beat the alternatives by a wide margin. Options included eliminating the wild-card round and reducing the playoff field to eight teams, a decision that would have precipitated a rebate of as much as $80 million to the TV networks.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks three weeks ago and the resulting postponement of its Week 2 games, the NFL had to reconfigure its regular-season and postseason schedules. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue first decided to reschedule those games and keep a 16-game season.

Then he explored the possibility of keeping the full playoff format. Among the considerations was the option of squeezing two rounds of playoffs into a six-day period almost immediately after the regular season.

Another option was pushing the Super Bowl back and moving it out of New Orleans.

Super Bowl XXXVI originally was scheduled for Jan. 27 at the Superdome. By moving it back a week, the game will coincide with the first week of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

The regular season ends the weekend of Jan. 5-7, which had been the first weekend of the playoffs. The postseason now will begin Jan. 12-13 with the wild-card round. The divisional playoffs follow on Jan. 19-20, and the conference championship games will be held Jan. 27.

The $7.5 million payment is to cover additional NADA expenses and losses incurred from the switch.

"We deeply appreciate the willingness of [NADA president] Phil Brady and America's new car dealers to work with us," Tagliabue said in a statement. "Thanks to their leadership, our fans and teams can look forward to a full complement of playoffs and to a great Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans."

Tagliabue also commended the efforts of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and the Louisiana Congressional delegation.

Benson, a former auto dealer, used his connections to assist in the negotiations.

"Everybody had to cooperate on this in all the little things that were involved," he said. "At first, everybody said it couldn't be done."

In the end, he said "It was worth it to the team and this community to get it done."

The next issue to be addressed is the Mardi Gras celebration. Sixteen parades are scheduled in New Orleans from Friday through Sunday, Feb. 1-3. Last January, Tampa, Fla., host city for Super Bowl XXXV, held a Gasparilla festival the day before the Ravens beat the New York Giants.

Police Superintendent Richard Pennington said his biggest concern would be two Sunday parades, but indicated those could be rescheduled. Arthur Hardy, publisher of an annual Mardi Gras guide and an authority on the celebration, said there has been discussion of moving all the parades to the previous weekend.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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