Twelve years ago this week, Raiders owner Al Davis signed his letter of intent to move the team back to Oakland, effectively terminating the National Football League's presence in Los Angeles.
Now, the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission is bringing the NFL back to the Los Angeles Coliseum for one night.
The non-profit organization will host its fifth "NFL 101/201" event on July 12. It's for sponsors and executives who want to show their support for an NFL team in the nation's second largest market. About 500 people, including many entertainment, business and sports executives, are expected to pay $350 to attend the event.
Even the most ardent NFL supporters realize today that L.A.'s chances of landing a franchise anytime soon have been reduced to "Hail Mary" pass status. New NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has put the issue on the backburner and the Coliseum Commission is formally looking into other long-term uses for the venue. The only scenario under which real momentum could be established would be for an established NFL franchise to reach out to L.A.
"We are keeping up interest and showing the NFL that this is a football town," said Kathy Schloessman, president of the commission, who said the attendees' message should be clear: "Corporate sponsors will support a team coming back."
The event, which had been held at Hollywood & Highland for the past four years, is moving to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this year. Organizers want to take advantage of the venue to demonstrate all of the inner workings of a professional stadium. Former players and coaches will guide participants through a variety of drills including field goal kicking, passing and running wide receiver routes, and there will be tours of the press box and locker rooms. Green Bay Packers equipment manager Gordon Batty will demonstrate all of the equipment used by pro football players and lockers will be lined with jerseys from all 32 teams.
There will also be a panel discussion about the upcoming NFL season with former USC All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Keyshawn Johnson, who announced his retirement this off-season; Andrea Kremer, reporter for NBC Sports; former NFL coach Jim Mora; and Oakland Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask.
If Kobe Bryant does leave the Los Angeles Lakers, he'll be taking the NBA's hottest-selling jersey with him.
Sales of Bryant's No. 24 jersey topped those of Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, who were second and third, according to sales figures released by the league.
The Lakers superstar remains under contract with the team, but has been questioning his commitment to the organization during this off-season. The NBA did not disclose sales revenues but did say that worldwide apparel and footwear sales increased by 26 percent this season. Revenue from licensed apparel is pooled and split among all 30 NBA teams.
Without a local team, NFL fans here get their pro football fix on television. There are more games than ever on TV, in part because of the emergence of the NFL Network, which has provided an opportunity for Hollywood's Troika Design Group.
The agency has produced the graphics package for the 24-hour network's flagship news program "NFL Total Access," including streaming ticker data, logos and high definition animation that will be at the center of a rebranding campaign.
The NFL Network began broadcasting in 2003 and has quickly grown its audience to 41 million subscribers. It will show eight live NFL games this season and has produced nearly 2,000 original hours of programming annually, most at its El Segundo studios.
Founded in 2001, Troika has quickly become one of the leading producers of sports graphics. The company also produced high definition graphics for NBC's Sunday Night Football as well as graphics for Fox Sport's Net's Final Score and ESPN. It has also worked with a variety of television networks including the CW, Food Network, ABC, Comedy Central and the TV Guide Channel.
Azusa Pacific University last week received the U.S. Sports Academy Director's Cup for the NAIA division, given to honor the overall success of its athletic program. It's the third straight year that the university has won the award.
"Since first winning the Cup, our fundraising and the donations to athletics has increased," said Gary Pine, associate athletic director. "It also helps with recruiting and adds credibility to our sports program."
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics awards the cup annually based on schools' standings in a variety of sports for men and women. UCLA and USC ranked second and sixth respectively in the most recent Division I standings behind Stanford, which remained in the top spot for the 13th consecutive year.
Were it a larger school, or in a smaller metropolitan area, Azusa Pacific would be in a better position to cash in commercially on its achievement, through attendance, merchandise sales, public camps and other money-making programs. As it is, the Cougars and their fans will celebrate more intimately.
"Our men's tennis team won the semifinal and the coach knew that we had clinched the cup," said Pines. "We'll have a celebration and present the cup in front of students, faculty, staff and alumni in the fall."
Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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