SBD/August 18, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Some NFL Execs Express Opposition To 18-Game Schedule, Citing Weather Concerns

Rooney said he is "not interested" in adding 2-3 weeks to the end of the season
Under the new NFL CBA, the league has "three years to convince players to agree to an 18-game schedule" for the '14 regular season, but it "might first want to make sure all the owners are on board, particularly those in cities where the winter winds blow brutally cold," according to Jason Cole of YAHOO SPORTS. Steelers President Art Rooney II said, "If we're talking about just adding two or three weeks to the end of the season, I'm not interested in that." Rooney indicated that any change "would have to include the league adding at least one of those weeks at the front of the schedule and forcing the NFL to once again collide with Labor Day weekend." He said, "We have to add at least one week at the front, otherwise all of the weather problems you're talking about in January are too much, in my opinion." Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy expressed similar concerns, saying, "If you're talking about starting the playoffs in the third week of January and playing into February, that's a concern for us and our fans." Cole noted the resistance from Rooney and Murphy is the "most significant pushback to date from ownership." Those involved with cold-weather teams "worry about the weather adversely impacting the game" and are concerned about "public safety with fans having to travel in potentially treacherous conditions." There also is a "concern that the mediocre teams or ones projected to be so could see season-ticket sales plummet." In addition, the league's current TV contracts are set to expire after the '13 season, and the networks "likely will put different offers together to the NFL on the upcoming TV deals." Cole noted, "In other words, there will be one price to a 16-game schedule and another for an 18-game schedule." The eventual goal for the league and the networks "is to move the end of the NFL season back to President's Day weekend." Murphy said, "We're already creeping toward that with the Super Bowl in February, so it's not that much farther to go." The networks "prefer the later date because it could make the Super Bowl part of sweeps week and impact ad rates." In addition, the NFL "envisions a situation where it can sell a four-day Super Bowl experience to cities interested in hosting the game by including the Monday holiday that goes with Presidents' Day" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/17).

OK TO PLAY: ESPN.com reports the NFL today declared former Ohio State Univ. QB Terrelle Pryor is eligible for Monday's supplemental draft, but "ruled that he will not be able to play in the first five games of the 2011 season after he signs a contract." David Cornwell, Pryor's attorney, said that he and his client "were happy with the NFL's decision but said the NCAA must be challenged on its 'amateurism' rules." Pryor withdrew from OSU in June after he was "suspended by the school and the NCAA for the first five games of what would have been his senior season this fall for accepting improper benefits, such as cash and discounted tattoos" (ESPN.com, 8/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman yesterday reported the NFL, NFLPA and college football were "considering a series of actions that would discipline players who are busted in college for violating NCAA rules, then skip to the pros unscathed." Sources said that the NFL "would like to enact fines and possibly even suspensions for a player once he enters the NFL if that player was found to have broken the rules while in college." Such an action "would be unprecedented in American professional sports." One "potential proposal is that if it's determined that a player, after he is drafted and subsequently makes an NFL roster, was shown to have violated NCAA rules, the player would be fined by the NFL." The money "would go to paying the school's legal fees or to a scholarship program." Freeman noted while the proposal "seems unlikely to survive legal challenges, it's an indication the NFL sees the increasing college scandals as a threat to its image" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/17).
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