November 06, 2009

The NFL is cautiously optimistic a deal is within reach in the coming days between it and the eight major college football conferences that have so far refused to release digitized versions of their 2009 game tapes for scouting and evaluation purposes, league sources told Friday.

Though key components of the negotiation remain, and league sources warn that any talk of a deal being done is premature, members of the league office and the NFL's influential competition committee are making progress toward an agreement with the multiple conference commissioners who are in talks with the league.

In a story that first reported two weeks ago, the stand-off between the NFL and a Boston-area company that produces and disseminates digitized content of NCAA games for eight major conferences was revealed to be a stumbling block for the league's college advisory committee, which is charged with rendering informed opinions on the readiness of juniors who are potential 2010 draft prospects.

XOS Technologies, based in Billerica, Mass., in August requested the NFL pay a rights fee between $20 million and $30 million for a multi-year commitment to electronically receive the coaches' tape content that formerly was supplied free of charge as mutually beneficial consideration between the NFL and NCAA. XOS represents eight of college football's 11 major conferences -- including the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, WAC, Mid-American and Sun Belt -- but league sources say the NFL has made progress in direct dialogue with the conference commissioners, asking them to differentiate between the value of the game-tape content for the league's evaluation purposes as opposed to any commercialization of the content for media outlets.

Unlike what can be seen on a tape made from a telecast of a game, the coaches' tape shows the entire alignment of both the offense and defense on each play, shot from the end zone. No NFL team's personnel or scouting departments have had access to any college action involving those conferences this season, creating a problem for the college advisory committee, which includes the general managers and personnel directors of most NFL clubs. Without those tapes, the so-called "junior's committee'' is facing a serious time crunch in being able to scout and evaluate. Some analysts are expecting a record number of juniors might come out in the 2010 draft due to looming labor issues that might result in a more restrictive rookie salary structure starting in 2011.

Collegiate juniors can petition the NFL's college advisory committee until mid-December for an assessment of where they project in the draft, thereby making what is hoped to be a more informed decision about their eligibility status. They then have until mid-January to formally declare for the draft.

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