The UFL Started Play Last Week-I Think

When news of tremendous import breaks often lesser stories are lost in the mix so you may be excused that amid your rejoicing about the return of the regular referees for National Football League games you missed that the United Football League has launched its latest season.

At least I missed it. Then again if you went by the leagues’ web site you would have thought that the season started a week earlier even though a press release on the site on a different topic does have the correct day.

Its Facebook page says that it is having Internet issues and that currently the only way to follow the teams and the league is via twitter. However a quick look around at newspapers based in cities that have teams shows it is having issues with the print media as well.

The league has a broadcast partner, having signed a deal with CBS Sports Network which promises to broadcast two games a week for the course of the leagues eight week season, one each every Wednesday and Friday. It will also broadcast the Championship game on December 1st.

I actually root for the UFL to succeed. I just see huge challenges facing an upstart league that has a tradition of money problems really getting heard above the noise of the NFL and NCAA. It seems now that one or the other plays almost every day from mid-week on, and with the huge following for the two it is hard to play third string.

I imagine that it has talked with the NFL about serving as a minor league of sorts, which seems to make sense on a number of levels. A pool of players ready for games that NFL teams can call on in case of injuries and the reflected glory of being associated with the NFL and possibly even attached to an individual team could be the ticket to longevity.

The minor league approach is what the rival USFL is trying, and it has not appeared to make any headway yet but with a spring schedule it still has time. The UFL might not.

Football (The US Version) Applying for Olympic Recognition?

I caught an interesting piece in ProFootballTalk that said that the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) was applying for Olympic recognition and looking to promote the game on the international stage at some point.

According to a piece at NFL.Com the application will be looked at next year and the article compared how the US once dominated basketball and now others have caught up. Really it often seems that the loss 2004 had other issues that cause the defeat and ultimate disappointing bronze.

I had never really considered football as a sport that fit well in the Olympics format, or one that would do well if selected, and that is not because of the possibility that it is not accepted by other nations. Rather the problem is that it seems to me that with all of the qualifying rounds and matches (assuming they do it like soccer), the sport would continue on from the end of the NFL season until the start of the Olympics.

Then once the Olympics started they would have to play a number of games within a two week period, unless they had already weeded out all of the teams but the final four. That just seems like it would not do for the players with the much higher risk that would entail.

Yet there is a much larger body of people playing football around the world that I had imagined as well. In perusing the IFAF web site I was astounded to see how many national federations there was in the organization. With 62 on six continents it is spread from Kuwait to Uruguay to New Zealand with Europe having by far the most nations represented.

They have an 19 and under league, a women’s league and a seniors league, and have played for at least four championships, one played every four years and the next one scheduled for play in Sweden in 2015.

Apparently football was played once as a spectator sport in the Olympics, back in 1932 at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles seniors from three schools, California, Stanford and USC played a set against seniors from three schools from the East Coast, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The West won 7-6.

While I have seen many people complain that one reason that the Olympics would never accept football is because of US domination and point to the dropping of baseball as an example, I think that reasoning is at least in part misguided.

Major League Baseball is never going to stop playing for several weeks in the middle of the season to allow its players to go to the games. The lost revenue, the impact on playoff games and a host of other issues would make that move a terrible idea.

If you look at the last 5 Olympics that allowed baseball, the US won the gold once, in 2000, along with two bronze medals while Cuba has won three gold medals and South Korea one. Without the top athletes, which it does not look like they will get, the US probably would not be considered the favorite if other nations managed to get their top people in.

Much the same logic can be applied to the NFL’s reaction. Lose players for a number of weeks at the start of training camp? Well they actually did that last year, and I am pretty sure that no one is happy with that or wants to repeat it.

The only way I could see the US participate is if they took one of the other leagues, the reborn USFL or the UFL and used the championship team from that league. While an all star team might make more sense to some it seems to me that a team that has already played a season together has a better chance of shining in an event such as this.

Will the UFL Morph into USFL?

I mentioned the apparent resurrection of the USFL to a friend a few days ago and he said “Well they played last year, didn’t they?” It took me a second to realize that he was referring to the United Football League (UFL), and what did happen to that league.

I have to admit that I did not follow the UFL, and was only vaguely aware of it when I would see the odd score posted someone and have to consciously realize that no, the NFL does not have a team in Virginia and this is not a college game.

So I went looking at it appears that the league was bleeding money, ended its season short and had a championship game. Is this the end of the four team, three year old league? It started out with such aggressive goals, once listing 21 cities that it could build franchises in. It had high profile people such as Mark Cuban saying they would invest (he backed out).

Starting with four teams in 2009 it expanded to 5 and it played an eight game schedule, up from the previous year’s six. Then last year appears to have been a series of setbacks. One team folded, it lost its sole broadcast partner and two that it was in talks with declined to jump on board. The season was cut short after four games and a championship game was played.

Many of the links at the official UFL web site do not work, although the one asking if you want an expansion team in your town does. No statistics from last year are up and the latest news is about its upcoming playoff game. (Played on October 21, 2011) The only new posts on its Facebook page appear to be from fans wondering what is up.

There are reports that the league is still trying to remain a viable sports effort, even after its commissioner and much of the teams infrastructure has apparently departed. It is looking at playing in the Spring, which would put it head to head with the USFL.

So will the league make a go of it? I doubt it. I do wonder if the owners will reach out to the USFL and seek to combine the two groups’ efforts. This makes a lot of sense since one league is looking for team owners (USFL) and the other is looking for a league. I think it will be hard to make a go of it as a Spring Football league, but it will be impossible if there are two leagues competing for investors, players and hopefully NFL recognition.

One note I did find it interesting is that the UFL changes a few rules from the NFL’s official ones. No tuck rule, four down defensive linemen required on each play, no more than six men rushing the passer to name a few. I wonder of the USFL will also have slightly different rules?