SBD/May 21, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Draft Faces Scheduling Conflict In '14; Could Be Moved To May

Pushing the NFL Draft to May next year will serve as a trial run for the future
The NFL likely will have to change the dates of the Draft in '14 because Radio City Music Hall is bringing back a spring and Easter show around that time, said NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello. The Draft has been held at Radio City since '06. The change in dates is not connected to discussions over changes to the league year, he said. While the league would like to move the NFL Combine to April, it is set for February next year, Aiello said. It is unclear now whether the Draft will move into May or change venues. The Draft is scheduled for April 24-26, 2014 (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). ESPN's Adam Schefter cited sources as saying that the union is "close to signing off on allowing the NFL to move the draft to May from April for at least the next three years" (ESPN.com, 5/20). NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the "target date" for the Draft next year is May 15. NFL Net's Albert Breer called the Radio City conflict a "convenient excuse" because the NFL wants to give a May Draft "a trial run in 2014." The league is "always looking to generate interest, and extending it a couple of weeks will continue this conversation." The Draft and the Combine are considered "events" by the league, and it can move them "unilaterally without getting consent" from the NFLPA. Breer: "The one thing that they can't move is the league year." Breer added that the "one group the league is getting some pushback from" about moving back the Draft is "their football people," who do not want to get the "rookies in two or three weeks later than they normally would." But those complaints "won't stop it from happening" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 5/20).

TAKING OVER THE NEWS CYCLE: CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said the NFL is trying to become a “12-month business" by moving the Draft to May. Rome: "It’s going to be all NFL, all the time. If they push that Draft back and they kind of mess around with the Combine a little, they’ll get what they’ve always wanted. It’ll be all NFL, 24/7, all year long.” CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman said, "They’re feeding the NFL Network." He said of the fan reaction to year-long NFL coverage, “It’s almost like more candy to them because the fans will eat it up.” CBS Sports Network's Ephraim Salaam: “It’s all about monetizing those dead months in the offseason. Pushing things around and moving the schedule, you create viewership, you create more opportunities for sponsors to come in" ("Rome," CBSSN, 5/20). Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted the NFL "loves to continue to be the biggest show in town even when it's not playing," and moving the Draft into May "gets it into that Nielsen sweeps period." Florio said this allows ESPN and NFL Network to "charge higher rates and set higher rates going forward because they're going to have bigger audiences." Florio: "This is all about the NFL continuing to dominate the American sporting landscape, even when the NFL isn't in season" ("PFT," NBC Sports Network, 5/20).

SPICE IT UP A BIT
: ESPN.com’s John Clayton noted one element that is “open for discussion” at the NFL owners meeting in Boston today is “a plan to spruce up the Pro Bowl.” On the table is “a plan for the top vote-getters in each conference to serve as team captains to select the squads.” Instead of having the AFC going against the NFC, the team captains “would pick from the list of 88 Pro Bowlers.” Also on the table are “incentives to reward squads for scores by the half or the quarter,” and two-minute warnings “could be added in the first and third quarters.” The league is “open to any suggestion, but such major changes would need support to be implemented.” If the NFL “changes the Pro Bowl, players have to brace for the consequences.” If the moves “fail, there probably won't be a Pro Bowl by 2016 or '17.” Clayton noted TV ratings “aren't the problem,” rather it is the “quality of the game.” Still, if the ratings “trend downward, the game could be canceled” (ESPN.com, 5/20).
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