November 12, 2009

Though it is not the over-arching, long-term agreement it sought with eight of college football's major conferences, the NFL believes a short-term arrangement to receive digitized versions of this season's game tapes directly from all affected schools is now in place, a league source told Thursday.

The league's competition committee is hopeful of collecting game content immediately, thereby easing the time crunch that the NFL's college advisory committee faced this year in scouting and evaluating what many analysts expect to be a record number of juniors in the 2010 draft class.

As in the past, the league will only pay schools for the expenses they incur in making the content available, with no rights fees attached.

A league source said the NFL's direct negotiations with the eight conference commissioners went well enough, but with time running short for the college advisory committee to begin its work, the commissioners decided it was more expedient for the league to deal directly with each of their schools regarding the content, as was the custom from the early 1990's on. first reported almost three weeks ago that the stand-off between the NFL and a Boston-area company that produces and disseminates the digitized content of NCAA games for eight major conferences was proving to be a stumbling block for the league committee charged with evaluating 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 basically for free as a mutually beneficial consideration between the NFL and NCAA.

XOS said it requested the rights fee on the behalf of its eight client conferences -- including the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, WAC, Mid-American and Sun Belt -- but the NFL asked the conference commissioners to differentiate between the value of the game-tape content for the league's evaluation purposes as opposed to any commercialization of the content to media outlets.

The NFL's competition committee sees the ability to get this season's game content as a short-term solution that likely will need to be re-visited with the conference commissioners at some point next offseason, a league source said. It's unclear as to whether there's any continued efforts by some conferences to monetize the game content as part of making it available to the NFL, or if the eight conferences involved merely had a difficult time reaching a hasty consensus on how to address the dispersal of the content to the league in a less piece-meal fashion.

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. The college advisory committee, which includes the general managers and personnel directors of most NFL clubs, relied on those tapes being sent in order to evaluate the draft's potential junior class. Next spring's junior contingent is expected to be at an all-time high due to looming labor issues that likely will result in a more restrictive rookie salary structure starting in 2011, as part of a potential new collective bargaining agreement between NFL players and management.

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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