NEW YORK – The Super Bowl will be played Feb. 3 in New Orleans, allowing a full playoff slate and normal playoff schedule.
The announcement of a deal to switch dates with the National Association of Automobile Dealers ended weeks of negotiations and speculation about the game, caused by the postponement of a week of the schedule by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
To cover the cost of the switch, the league paid $7.5 million to the auto dealers, who were holding their annual convention in New Orleans at the same time.
The agreement means that the NFL's regular season will end Jan. 5-6 and that 12 teams will make the playoffs.
The wild-card round will be played Jan. 12-13, the divisional playoffs Jan. 19-20, and the conference championships Jan. 27, the original date of the Super Bowl.
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 pay back 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 with NADA. The major problem was logistics -- switching hotel rooms and other major problems.
"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 is himself an auto dealer.
In addition to the $7.5 million payment, the NFL agreed to match NADA payments up to $500,000 to go to the 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.
Mayor Marc Morial said Tuesday the league asked whether the city can provide adequate security for parades at the same time as the Super Bowl.
Last year, when the game was in Tampa, that city's Gasparilla festival tied up traffic Saturday afternoon and evening.
Parade organizers met Tuesday 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. Hardy said there is some discussion of pushing all the parades back to the previous weekend.