An “American Idol”-inspired format is just one of several changes to the scouting combine being mulled by the NFL as the annual predraft gathering of top college prospects convenes starting today in Indianapolis, Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reports.
According to the NFL Network, that system could soon resemble “Idol” by having those lesser prospects duke it out at regional combines for an invitation to join the marquee talent in Indianapolis or even a spot at the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.
There is also talk among league executives of taking Deion Sanders’ advice and having players compete head-to-head in certain combine events — perhaps turning the 40-yard dash into an actual race — in order to ratchet up the tension for TV purposes.
“The combine won’t be maximized until we find a way to link it with the rest of the journey of these guys,” Eric Grubman, the NFL’s VP of business ventures, told the network. Wednesday “From a football operations standpoint, it’s very well-developed. But it’s an immature property, from a fan-access and fan-appeal standpoint.”
Turning the combine into a reality show would be just another step in the progression that began in earnest in 2005, when the league lifted the once-tight veil on the proceedings by showing many of them live on the NFL Network.
Skeptics doubted that anyone would be interested in watching quarterbacks throwing out routes on an empty field, linebackers lifting weights or linemen running the 40-yard dash, but a record 6.51 million tuned in last year — nearly double the audience of 3.7 million in 2007.
And the fans don’t just want to watch on TV. The league let contest-winning fans attend one day of the combine last year and is allowing them to watch two days this year.
Not only that, but the media turnout also has become a frenzy. Fewer than 100 reporters covered the combine here just 10 years ago; the league issued a whopping 800 credentials this year.
The combine even has its own mini-version of radio row, a gauntlet of national radio shows broadcasting live from the media center every day that has become famous at the Super Bowl.
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