NEW YORK -- The Super Bowl will be pushed back a week and played Feb. 3 in New Orleans, a move caused by the terrorist attacks.
The change will allow the National Football League to complete its season without altering its playoff format, but puts the big game in the Big Easy during the crowded opening weekend of Mardi Gras.
The NFL switched its original date of Jan. 27 with the National Automobile Dealers Association and paid the group $7.5 million to cover the costs of rescheduling its convention.
The need to swap dates was caused when the NFL postponed its second week of games after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The agreement means that the NFL's regular season will end Jan. 5-6 with the games that should have been played in week two, Sept. 16-17.
The wild-card round will be played Jan. 12-13, the divisional playoffs Jan. 19-20, and the conference championships Jan. 27.
After it put off the second week of the season, the NFL presented several scenarios for the playoffs.
One was to condense the field from 12 teams to eight and skip a week of playoff games. But that would have forced the NFL to repay the networks for the games -- and the networks wanted as much as $80 million.
Another was to condense the playoffs, with teams playing as many as three games in 10 days.
The third was to switch dates with the auto dealers, an agreement that took nearly two weeks of negotiations. The major problem was logistics -- especially switching hotel rooms.
''We deeply appreciate the willingness of Phil Brady and America's new car dealers to work with us,'' commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. ''Thanks to their leadership, our fans and teams can look forward to a full complement of playoffs and to a great Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans. We trust that the NADA will enjoy a super convention as well.''
Tagliabue also praised Tom Benson, the New Orleans Saints' owner, for his help.
Benson, a former auto dealer, said he talked to a lot of friends in the business in recent days and wasn't sure a switch could be made.
''Everybody had to cooperate on this in all the little things that were involved,'' he said. ''At first everybody said it couldn't be done.''
Benson called it a good move for the city.
''There were a lot of problems, things going on,'' he said. ''And you can see it cost a little money, too, but it was worth it. It was worth it to the team and this community to get it done.''
In addition to the $7.5 million payment, the NFL agreed to match NADA payments up to $500,000 for Sept. 11 relief efforts.
One problem yet to be determined is how New Orleans will cope with the later date, which puts the game into the first weekend of Mardi Gras. Sixteen parades are scheduled to roll through New Orleans streets on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the two days before the game and the day of the contest.
Last year, when the game was in Tampa, that city's Gasparilla festival snarled traffic Saturday afternoon and evening.
Parade organizers met with members of the hotel industry, city leaders and police officials to discus logistical problems the Super Bowl would create.
Along with the parades, they need to work out arrangements for the carnival balls that accompany them, and for large blocks of rooms.
Police Superintendent Richard Pennington said his biggest concern would be two Sunday parades in New Orleans, and those can be rescheduled. Arthur Hardy, publisher of an annual Mardi Gras guide and an authority on the celebration, said there is some discussion of pushing all the parades back to the previous weekend.
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