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NFL owners extend replay

Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2004

PALM BEACH, Fla. The NFL once again compromised on instant replay, deciding Tuesday to keep it for five more years rather than putting it in permanently.

The owners did add an extra coaches' challenge for teams who successfully used two challenges. Since replay was reinstituted in 1999, teams were limited to just two challenges, except for the last two minutes of each half, when a replay official could order a review.

Also, a federal appeals court in New York agreed to hear arguments to overturn the lower court ruling allowing Ohio State sophomore Maurice Clarett and other underclassman and high schoolers into the draft. NFL chief counsel Jeff Pash said if the court rules in the NFL's favor before the April 24-25 draft, Clarett, Southern California sophomore Mike Williams and seven others would not be included.

Should that happen and the NFL subsequently loses the appeal, a supplemental draft for those players would be held within 10 days of the court decision.

But the NFL seemed optimistic the court would uphold its longstanding rule that a player can not be drafted until he has been out of high school for three years.

''Yes, I think there is a very substantial chance he will not be in the draft,'' Pash said of Clarett.

Pash said the hearing will be April 19 or 20.

The vote on replay was 29-3, with Kansas City, Indianapolis and Cincinnati voting against, but Arizona voting for it for the first time in the two decades it has been considered.

''Some people were still concerned about replay,'' commissioner Paul Tagliabue said about not instituting it permanently. ''And there were many, including myself, who felt that putting it in for five years rather than permanently would provide an incentive for the officiating department and the league office to continue to find ways to improve it.''

Twenty-four votes were needed from the 32 teams to keep it. That was another reason, Tagliabue said, why some teams were reluctant to put it in permanently if that were done, it would require 24 votes to get it out.

In other action Tuesday:

The owners renewed the NFL Trust, which provides $4 million per team in licensing revenue for shirts, hats and other products with team logos. But Tagliabue agreed to appoint a nine-member committee to look at all aspects of revenue sharing in the face of questions from several teams, led by Washington, Dallas and Miami.

Tagliabue said he was receptive to a contract extension beyond May 2005, when his current contract expires. However, the commissioner, who will turn 64 in November, added: ''I don't want to work forever.''

The owners heard more on the proposal to build a new stadium for the New York Jets on the West Side of Manhattan. Tagliabue said there would be further discussion on the stadium, perhaps even on Wednesday, but emphasized there had been no commitment by the league for a future Super Bowl there.

Although it was not put in permanently, the extension was the longest ever for replay.

It was first instituted in 1986 and extended a year at a time through the 1991 season, when it was removed, largely over concerns about the time it took to review plays. In that system, a replay official in a booth would decide what to challenge and review it.

Replay came back in 1999 with the challenge system and in 2001 was extended for three years. The additional challenge in this package was added to reward coaches who had gotten both of them right.

But that could be rare. Last season, there was only one instance when a team had two successful challenges Carolina against Houston.

The revenue sharing agreement, which would have expired on Wednesday, was extended for another 15 years. But before that happened, there was extensive debate over its future.

While no one questioned the concept by which the bulk of league revenues are apportioned primarily the $80 million per team from television owners such as Dallas' Jerry Jones and Washington's Dan Snyder want wider marketing rights for their teams' products.

At the same time, owners in smaller markets, including Buffalo's Ralph Wilson, Indianapolis' Jim Irsay and Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, expressed concern about what they consider an increasing disparity in cash flow between haves and have-nots.

''There are a lot of issues that we have to discuss,'' said Jeff Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, one of three teams to abstain on the vote, along with Tampa Bay and Oakland. ''We're not talking about the basics television. But there are lots of ways of sharing other money that doesn't involve that. That's what we're going to study.''



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