Dennis Lauscha – NFL Owners Meetings
Tuesday, March 28
Well Dennis, the main thing, the Oakland Raiders now relocating to Las Vegas. They might still be in Oakland for a couple of years, but the relocation process has been approved… Your thoughts on an NFL team relocating, the third team in a couple of years here:
Lauscha:Whenever there is a relocation, it's tough. It's tough for the fans in Oakland, in California for those Raiders fans and that's why these decisions are well thought out. A lot of thought goes into a lot of analysis. You know, you have to remember, this process in Oakland has been going on for maybe 10, 15, 20 or so years. It's been a long process, but you still feel for the folks in Oakland. You feel excited for the people in Las Vegas. They're getting a great jewel for their community. Hats off to Las Vegas. They put together one heck of a deal for the Raiders, and it was approved.
Is this a situation where you look at it and step back, and see how special the relationship is between New Orleans and Louisiana and the Saints?
Lauscha:No question. There's no doubt about that. Again, we go back to some of the contract negotiations we've had over the last 10, 15, 20 years. A lot of times they're not pretty and they're confrontational, but at the end of the day, really since 2006, we've been working really well with the state. We have a great deal. We have a great partnership with the state and with SMG. All of the governors and all of the local political figures have really come to realize how important both of our franchises are to our community and the economic impact that they both deliver. That economic impact we talk a lot about, but it's also emotional in spirit and diversity impact as well. It's got multiple bottom lines at the end of the day. We're lucky we're in a small market, as you said, at least on paper. But we never say that, we say we're seven million strong because we're Louisiana, Mississippi, parts of Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida. Seven million people there. 30% of our people that come to our football games come from that area. So, again, we're seven million strong in my mind. Is that, when you loom at it in that strength. one of the things that maybe fans don't quite understand when they see a franchise relocating? They think it's all about the cash, but they don't really understand the total economic impact and what's happening to a franchise in a certain city.
Lauscha:Oh, there's no question about it. There's so many other factors that people say, 'oh it's a small market, you're probably next up.' That's not true. We have one of the largest stadiums in the NFL. We keep it packed. Our sponsorships have been very good. If you look at who are sponsors are, many of them are regional companies. Many of them are reaching out across the gulf coast, and that's why they partner with us. Whether it's Oschner or Sanderson Farms, one of our biggest sponsors out of Mississippi. We try to tap into all of our fans in the gulf south, and there's a lot more to look at then just the size of your metropolitan area.
Here at the NFL Owners Meetings, obviously other intricacies involved. What are some of the things that stood out for you at these meetings?
Lauscha:Well, this relocation was big. That was the obvious big enchilada, if you will, of this meeting. There was just a lot of small things. Continued growth internationally is big for the league. We've had some really insightful experience, if you will, on the NBA side and all of the successes that they've had internationally. The NFL is trying to copy some of those successes as well. I paid particularly close attention to that. Participation numbers in youth are up, which is good. We like saying that we have a very vibrant youth programs, as you know with the Saints. It's really the front of the agenda for us. We celebrate high school football. We're starting to see it pay off across the country. Not just in the Louisiana/New Orleans area, but across the country we're starting to see participation rates gone up. The other real thing that's really amazing, that you don't really often hear a lot about, but it truly is mind-blowing, is the technological advancements we've made in player safety. Whether that's new helmet development, new shoe development, shoulder pad development, some of that information gets shared with all of the presidents and football folks and owners, and it's eye-opening. There's a real commitment to making this game safe and we're seeing it on the field. We look forward to even making safer in the future.
Now there is a player safety issue that came up and a current rules change, and I know you weren't in on the vote, but I've got to ask you your opinion on this one. Now Mickey says he liked the leaper, but now the leaper has been abolished. One year too late we say for Saints fans, but your thoughts on that rule being implemented now.
Lauscha:Well, let me say this, if our GM says that he liked it then I'll say I liked it, but yes I didn't like it last year. There's no question about it. You know, there's two rules that were changed this year. I was sitting there. The other one is, you can't have multiple fouls by players to manipulate the game clock and we saw that this year and we had to kick a field goal rather than go for a touchdown. So we had two odd things happen to us last year. Hopefully we have all those odd things in the rear-view mirror and now the bounces will start going our way, but again, if Mickey's happy with it, I guess I'll be happy with it.