The East-West Shrine Game, a college-football all-star bowl that began in 1925 and spent eight decades on the West Coast, could be coming to Tampa's Raymond James Stadium beginning next season, but only if a long-term agreement is reached.
Meanwhile, the Senior Bowl, a higher-profile all-star game featuring a de facto convention of NFL coaches and executives, is also in play. The Senior Bowl, which is seeking an NFL venue and leaving its long-time home of Mobile, Ala., has offered Tampa exclusive negotiating rights for its game - and an expected long-term arrangement - before it moves to contact other potential suitors.
The Buccaneers could be a key partner in the venture, offering use of its training facility and benefitting from the exposure to highly touted draft prospects.
First, though, the Shrine Game is on the clock.
Shriners International chairman Doug Maxwell appeared Monday before the Tampa Sports Authority board of directors, pitching the Shrine Game's interest in Tampa. Maxwell called it a "natural fit'' because the Shriners' headquarters have been in Tampa for 30 years.
After some back-and-forth discussions about contract terms, the TSA voted unanimously to approve a one-year agreement for the 2010 Shrine Game, but only if Maxwell went to his board next week seeking a five-year deal. Later in the meeting, via telephone, the Shriners proposed a five-year agreement - including a 90-day escape clause that could cancel the deal after two years.
The TSA board said that was unacceptable. If the Shriners produce an iron-clad long-term deal, TSA interim executive director Mickey Farrell said it should be approved at next month's board meeting.
"I think we move on because [long-term] is what the board wants,'' Farrell said.
Earlier in the meeting, TSA board member Bob Buckhorn spoke of loyalty, saying the Shriners have made "an economic investment and an emotional investment in our community.''
Even though it's far from a done deal, everyone agreed that the Senior Bowl is the more prestigious event. Traditionally held one week before the Super Bowl, the Senior Bowl is a prime gathering spot for agents, NFL coaches, general managers and draft-ready players.
Senior Bowl players work with NFL coaching staffs. The Bucs' staff has three times been assigned to the game, each time becoming familiar with players they ultimately drafted.
The Shrine Game, which also attracts senior draft prospects and NFL brass, is the same weekend as the league's conference championship games. It was held in the San Francisco area until 2006, when it relocated to Texas (San Antonio and Houston).