Big Doins' In Pro Football

Three Rivers Stadium is imploded in downtown Pittsburgh. At left is the new football only stadium. AP

The NFL unanimously approved realignment for 2002 on Tuesday, shifting Seattle from the AFC to the NFC but keeping most of the divisions intact.

The move creates eight four-team divisions for the 32-team league that will include expansion Houston. Five of the divisions remain the same as the current ones, minus one team each.

Arizona switches from the NFC East to the West. The NFC Central becomes the NFC North, minus Tampa Bay, which goes to the new NFC South. Seattle switches conferences, to the NFC West.

The AFC North, formerly the AFC Central, loses Jacksonville and Tennessee, which go to the new AFC South, where they join Indianapolis from the AFC East.

The NFL's new divisions
AFC North: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh.

AFC East: Buffalo, Miami, New England, New York Jets.

AFC South: Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee.

AFC West: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego.

NFC North: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota.

NFC East: Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington.

NFC South: Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay.

NFC West: Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle.
June 1 was the deadline for having the new 32-team, eight-division alignment set. And final approval was no big problem.

The last realignment, in 1970, was difficult because three teams had to move from the NFL to the AFL in an era when there was less harmony. This change, based primarily on geography, wasn't as contentious.

Because Houston, an original AFL city, has been promised a spot in the AFC, one AFC team had to move to the NFC. That turned out to be Seattle, although San Diego also was considered.

The Seahawks played a year in the NFC before switching over in 1977.

The new scheduling format ensures that every team meets every other team in the league at least once every four years. There will be six division games — home-and-home — plus games against one division from the AFC and one from the NFC on a rotating basis.

The other two games will be within the conference based on the previous season's standings: one vs. one, two vs. two, etc.




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