SBD/February 21, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Combine May Go "American Idol" Route To Make Event More Appealing For TV

Ten regional combines already are held by the NFL for lesser prospects
An “American Idol”-inspired format is “just one of several changes ... being mulled” for the NFL Combine, according to Bart Hubbuch of the N.Y. POST. The event has “become so popular in recent years that the league understandably wants to grow it even more.” The NFL “already conducts 10 regional combines for lesser prospects.” An NFL.com report claimed that the “system could soon resemble ‘Idol’ by having those lesser prospects duke it out at the regional combines for an invitation to join the marquee talent in Indianapolis or even a spot at the NFL Draft.” There also is talk among league execs of “having players compete head-to-head in certain combine events ... in order to ratchet up the tension for TV purposes.” NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said, “The combine won’t be maximized until we find a way to link it with the rest of the journey of these guys. From a football operations standpoint, it’s very well-developed. But it’s an immature property, from a fan-access and fan-appeal standpoint.” Hubbuch notes turning the combine into a reality show “would be just another step in the progression that began in earnest in 2005, when the league lifted the once-tight veil on the proceedings by showing many of them live on the NFL Network.” But not everyone in the league is “as ecstatic about capitalizing on the combine’s booming popularity as many of the suits in the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters.” Even though league officials are “promising to keep their hands off the two combine events -- the medical exams and the individual interviews -- deemed most important by coaches and scouts, people on the football side remain wary of the league turning it into a circus” (N.Y. POST, 2/21).

WORKOUT WARRIORS: NFL.com’s Albert Breer wrote in “an era where everything the league touches seems to turn to gold, the desire of the public to see 22-year-olds running around in Under Armour shorts and shirts might be the brightest of many shining examples.” The event in recent years "has changed, becoming increasingly dressed up, buttoned down and ready for prime time.” Last year, 300 sponsors and fans “were brought in to watch one day of the event live,” and this year, there will be “two such days.” The idea of “opening it up to the public has been floated.” NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, "There was initially resistance from the old-school purists. But as time moved on, they could see real balance between what they needed football-wise and the entertainment side. Those guys matured in their thinking.” National Football Scouting President Jeff Foster indicated finding a way to "protect the working environment" for talent evaluators is a big consideration. Foster said that “while he can see the limited fan access currently being provided expanding to include all four days, he worries that going further could be problematic.” Breer reported the NFL is "considering the idea of opening the upper deck up to fans, though there is an acknowledgement that interest isn't at the point yet where selling tens of thousands of seats on a weekday would represent any sort of certainty” (NFL.com, 2/18).

THIS IS ONLY A TEST: In Charlotte, Joseph Person reports prospects at the NFL Combine, which starts today, "will be asked to take not one, but two tests aimed at measuring their intelligence and aptitude." But creators of a "new measuring stick called the NFL Player Assessment Test believe for the first time they have a tool that will give teams an idea of a player’s football IQ in addition to his book smarts." The PAT "will help scouts and general managers see what type of learning and motivational styles best fit a player." For years the league has "relied on the Wonderlic, developed in the 1930s to measure the intelligence of job applicants." Many wondered whether the exam was "relevant from a football standpoint." Critics also "claimed the Wonderlic, like other standardized tests, was biased against test-takers from lower socio-economic backgrounds." Attorney Cyrus Mehri, who created the PAT, said the test “is not based on prior knowledge. This has breadth and depth to it" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/21).
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