NFL executive balances tradition with technology

Posted on Apr 27 2017 - 8:00am by Brian Scott Rippee

In some aspects, Michelle McKenna-Doyle’s job is about balance. Balancing the time-honored traditions of a game that is 100 years old, while innovating new forms of technology in order to avoid being archaic.

Oh yeah, and she does this for the most successful professional sports league in the history of the world. McKenna-Dole is the vice president and chief information officer of the National Football League. She’s responsible for overseeing and implementing new technology into the game of football. But she also understands that a mix between that and the traditions of the game creates the best product.

McKenna-Doyle is one of the featured speakers at the C Spire Tech Experience at 5:30 p.m. today in The Pavilion.

“We definitely take a lot of feedback and try our best to meet their requirements,” McKenna-Doyle said. “Depending on the type of technology, for example, anything we put on the sideline and we’ve put a lot in the last two years around player health and safety, and how we review that data and who reviews it. They don’t get a lot of input on that. That’s very much a league policy. But how they use those tablets and what they use, not only do we get their feedback but give them the option to use it in their game preparation.”

Another example of mixing tradition with evolution is the NFL draft, which begins Thursday night. It’s become a tradition to enter the pick via phone and submit it on a card, when in reality picks could be entered into a computer in an instant.

“We choose to preserve the tradition and the honor of that,” McKenna-Doyle said. “It’s great television.”

She’s overseen the implementation of tablets teams can use on the sidelines during game preparation and during the game to study coverages, schemes and defensive lapses.

McKenna-Doyle also helps grow the game. The NFL is expanding worldwide. It had four regular season games in London and one in Mexico City this past year. The league knows if it wishes to remain the most powerful sports league in the world, continued growth is the lifeblood of that.

“We never let that sink in. We act like we are a scrappy, still-trying-to-make-it league every day,” she said. “That is our culture, and we never take it for granted. We know our games are the top-watched television that day, but we never get comfortable.”

McKenna-Doyle’s schedule is busy, and her job is demanding. But she’s always loved the game of football and wanted to work in sports in some capacity. Her brother played football at Alabama. She chose to go to college at Auburn.

McKenna-Doyle spent 14 years working for Disney and worked in part with Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Then the NFL came calling, which exceeded her wildest dreams.

“I didn’t expect I’d ever come from little ole route one Enterprise, Alabama, to 345 Park Ave. That was a little bit of a stretch, even in my own mind,” she said.

McKenna-Doyle is one of the featured speakers at the C Spire Tech Experience at 5:30 p.m. today in The Pavilion.