The NFL year-end all-star game has been nothing short of disappointing in recent years. While the recognition for the players is rewarding the on-field product is not. And the numbers don’t lie.
In each of the past three seasons, the annual game has seen a drastic dip in viewer engagement.
This past Pro Bowl drew a 5.0 overnight rating. That’s down from 5.6 last year and significantly down from the 6.7 rating the Pro Bowl received in 2014 when it was on NBC. (Per Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily, that’s likely the lowest rating ever for the Pro Bowl).
Changes needed to be made to make the event more lively. As a result NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the annual game would be moved from Honolulu, Hawaii to Orlando, Florida starting in 2017.
The announcement was made on Wednesday at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, site of the AFC-NFC team practices and host to many youth football programs including the prestigious Pop Warner Super Bowl.
Goodell released a statement saying:
“We are excited to re-imagine the Pro Bowl experience for both fans and players and to celebrate the game of football at all levels. Collaborating with Disney and ESPN brings us closer to the best in youth and family-focused entertainment. We look forward to working with the city of Orlando and Florida Citrus Sports to create a week-long celebration for football and our fans.”
However, the location isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Below are following things to come as the All-Star game makes some subtle changes. How does 13-time Pro Bowl WR Jerry Rice feel about all of this? Well, it turns out he’s a fan!
Pro Bowl NFC vs AFC about time!!!#OldSchool
— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) June 2, 2016
- The 2017 Pro Bowl players will be able to invite their former youth or high school coach to be a part of the celebrations during the week. Players on the winning Pro Bowl team will receive a grant from the NFL Foundation to support their youth or high school football program.
- The annual USA Football National Conference will take place during the week leading up to the Pro Bowl. USA Football, the sport’s national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, leads the largest annual conference of high school and youth football administrators and high school coaches in the United States. More than 650 participants from all 50 states attended USA Football’s 2016 National Conference in Indianapolis, addressing coach education, player safety and key trends through inspiring speakers representing youth, high school, collegiate and pro levels.
- The Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award winner will be announced during the Pro Bowl as part of a year-long recognition of high school coaches on ESPN. The award honors high school football coaches that display the integrity, achievement, and leadership exemplified by Pro Football Hall of Fame DON SHULA, the winningest coach in NFL history.
- Pro Bowl festivities for youth and their families will take place throughout the week across Orlando, including a Pro Bowl-themed 5k run and a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom.
Most importantly: The 2017 Pro Bowl will feature a return to the traditional AFC vs. NFC game format following three years using a revised, “un-conferenced” format.
The game will consist of 88 players (44 from AFC and 44 from NFC) – are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches (each consists of 1/3 of the voting process).
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