NFL Still Has Its Sights on Rose Bowl

Times Staff Writer

Staging the Super Bowl in a renovated Rose Bowl remains a "high priority" for the NFL, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Friday, adding he has had "some general concepts" outlined to him but has seen no definitive plans for modernizing the stadium that would also appease preservationists.

Meantime, he said during his annual state of the league news conference, the league is seriously considering breaking with tradition and moving the game from warm-weather cities or cities with domed stadiums to cold-weather sites in the Northeast.

"Particularly New York and the nation's capital," he said, "and obviously, the [unusually cold] weather this week suggests that my timing in putting this before the membership might not have been exquisite.

"I think the interest is there. The Jets are working on a new stadium with the Olympic committee in New York....The most important things are two: To guarantee the playing field conditions for the game would be very high quality. Then we'd have to have some type of heated field, and that could be done. The second point is fan comfort, and that requires a state-of-the-art facility."

As well as some common sense.

"You don't go with Bermuda shorts, and you don't go looking for mai tais," he said. "You dress like you'd dress for the Winter Olympics."

The next three Super Bowls have been awarded to Houston, Jacksonville and Detroit. He said without a new stadium in San Diego, which is currently being debated, "I don't think the outlook is promising" for the Super Bowl to be played here a fourth time.

"From my own perspective, I'm very surprised we're here this week," he said, crediting Charger owner Alex Spanos with an effective lobbying job in securing Sunday's game at Qualcomm Stadium.

There have been reports that the NFL might award the Super Bowl to the Rose Bowl in 2008 or '09, although that would require the league to make an exception to its rule that the game can be played only in cities with NFL teams.

Tagliabue didn't address whether the L.A. area might have a team by then, but he did introduce the possibility when asked about expansion plans. He said the NFL has no timetable for expansion, although he qualified that by saying: "We don't anticipate expansion, with the exception of if an opportunity to put a team in Los Angeles in a state-of-the-art stadium develops. Then ownership might consider expansion."

However, the lack of such a stadium remains a major obstacle.

"That's why we're encouraged by efforts in Pasadena to develop a concept for the Rose Bowl to make it state-of-the-art," he said.

Tagliabue fielded a series of wide-ranging questions about Sunday's game and the supposedly scaled-back celebrations preceding it. He said the unsteady economy has not adversely affected the game from a business standpoint and said if the excesses of the past have been curtailed, that's not such a bad thing.

"I've heard about the so-called Frugal Bowl," he said. "But it's a hot ticket. Businesses are associating with the NFL in a positive way.

"If there's any frugality it's probably called for, given where we are as a nation, with the possibility of war. We feel the game has been extremely well received and very well supported."

He also said activists who complained that the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars had circumvented the league's diversity initiative when they hired Bill Parcells and Jack Del Rio, respectively, were misguided. However, he said the NFL will someday have "color-blind hiring practices" and will continue to listen to suggestions to train and promote minorities.

"I don't see how these principles [of fair employment] have been breached in any way, shape or form by the hirings in Jacksonville or Dallas," he said.

The current overtime format is being discussed by the competition committee and is likely to be modified to lessen the statistical advantage for the team that receives first. Tagliabue doesn't envision any regular-season games being played overseas, although he announced Friday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face the New York Jets in the preseason Tokyo Bowl this summer, and said the competition committee is unlikely to do anything "surgical or radical" regarding officiating.

He described the overall quality of officiating this season as outstanding, and said the botched call at the end of the New York Giant-San Francisco 49er playoff game was an aberration.

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