- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The NFL's effort to keep this season's Super Bowl in New Orleans and move it back a week to Feb. 3 gained steam yesterday when the league agreed to cover all losses suffered by the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Senior officials for the McLean-based NADA, which has the Louisiana Superdome and most downtown New Orleans hotels booked that weekend for its annual convention, will spend this week trying to organize the complex logistics of a date swap.
Believing a move of its convention with more than 30,000 attendees and 600 vendors would be far too difficult, NADA rebuffed a preliminary overture last week from the NFL for a date swap. However, after a meeting yesterday between NADA president Phil Brady and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the auto dealers agreed to study the issue with the league.
The NFL wants to change the date of the Super Bowl from Jan. 27 to accommodate the elongated regular season and a full slate of playoffs. The league last week extended the regular season by a week when Week 2 was postponed after the terrorist strikes.
"It's still premature to say whether or not this can actually be worked out," said David Hyatt, NADA executive director. "But we have agreed to work together, get this on a fast track and try to get this done. The commissioner has agreed to indemnify all our losses and it's being discussed at the highest levels of both organizations."
Hyatt could not say how much the losses from a date swap would be. But the entire NADA convention costs between $10 million and $15 million to stage, and the fees for changing airline tickets for the attendees alone could easily surpass $1 million.
But whatever NADA's final losses would be in a date swap, they would still be far less than the $60 million to $80 million the NFL would need to pay ABC, CBS and Fox if it eliminates the wild-card playoff round.
The reduction of the playoff field from 12 teams to eight had been discussed within league headquarters after the decision to not play the weekend of Sept. 16-17. However, the move would strip the networks of four highly watched and advertising-rich games, and potentially depress attendance and TV ratings for non-contending teams by midseason.
Tagliabue, however, insisted Sunday the desire to switch dates is not predicated on economics.
"The biggest factor is the fans and the fact that the people want those extra four playoff opportunities," Tagliabue said while in Kansas City attending the Chiefs-New York Giants game.
If a deal with NADA cannot be reached, the NFL likely will seek to move the site of the Super Bowl and still hold it Feb. 3 rather than compress the playoff schedule. Relocation options include Pasadena, Calif., Miami and Tampa, Fla., each previous Super Bowl hosts. In the case of such a move, the league may hold conference championship games at the Superdome on Jan. 27.
"Our preference is clearly holding the game in New Orleans, but we are still pursuing a number of alternatives at this point," said Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman. "What we're doing now [with NADA] is figuring out what all the issues are, and how we might be able to help each other solve them. That's the spirit in which this is being discussed."

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