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.

USFL Showing Signs of Life-Still No Proof We will See Games Next Spring

A while back we mentioned that the United States Football League had risen like a phoenix from the ashes and thanks to an investor was seeking to establish itself as a viable spring football league. At the time there was scant information about the USFL’s plans but the league has been slowly releasing information about its plans so it seems an update is in order.

An entity called EndZone Sports Management purchased all of the rights to the league from Michael Dwyer, who held the rights. EndZone was founded by Jamie Cuadra who is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of the USFL. The deal did not include any of the old teams, and new ones are in the process of being created.

A tour has started to evaluate potential cities and the USFL said that it wants places that teams will want to stay and establish themselves rather than engage in the migratory pattern that has plagued other startup football leagues. At the same time it is evaluating owners for the teams.

It plans to operate in much the same manner as Major League Soccer does, which in part means that the players and the coaches are under contract to the league and not to the individual teams. I also believe that MLS soccer has a semi-hard salary cap and that the bulk of the players salaries come from advertisers, particularly Adidis, which has a huge sponsorship deal with the league that it signed a few years back.

The league’s advisory board includes Jim Bailey who was executive vice president of the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens for 21 years who heads up the business operations side. Former pro footballers Marshall Faulk and Jeff Garcia along with athletes coach and trainer Terrell Jones join Bailey. On the Football operations side there is former Raiders great Fred Biletnikoff, who was also a coach for two teams in the original USFL

The overall goal of the league is to launch a 14 game season starting in the Spring of 2013 with eight teams playing and a championship event game in June. It is hoping to establish relationships with other leagues (read NFL) and will use the NFL rule book for its games.

It has also refreshed its web site to look much more professional and created a new logo so that it has a clean break from the past and a new image to brand itself to. The leagues logo will be “Real. Fun. Football.” I guess that is better than the No Fun League.

We will check in again in a few weeks to see how things have progressed. Hopefully it will have cities, team names and possibly a broadcasting and/or live streaming deal in place as well.

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?

Looks like the USFL is for Real

We reported a few months back, on April Fool’s Day to be exact, that there were rumors that the United States Football League was about to resurrect itself as a spring football league and it now appears that the rumors were not a joke and that you can expect to hear more about the league in the coming months according to a piece at NBC Sports.

At the time of the report there was a web site for the league as well as at least one news story that claimed it was true and that they had interviewed the new owner of the league. Now we have seen a second piece that said that the league was for real.

It has now started to fill out a bit of its top management with the reported hiring for ex Oakland Raider great Fred Biletnikoff as an advisor for the league. The league also has James Bailey, a former executive for the Cleveland Browns and then the Baltimore Ravens for 21 years, on the USFL’s board of advisors.

The league intends to model itself after Major League Soccer and that it will have the players and coaches under contract to the league, rather than individual teams and said that it views itself as a minor league source for the NFL.

It has no plans to try and steal away, or even sign, players that are drafted by the NFL and will instead look to fill its ranks with both undrafted players and those that did not make the grade in their first try with NFL teams.

It has said that there have been no talks yet with the NFL but that it expects to have talks within the next 60 days and said that it will keep all of its practices and games open to NFL personnel. It is the process of gaining owners with ties to the areas where t hopes to locate teams and is creating a board of directors.

The USFL plans to be a summer league with initially eight teams. While no schedule has been announced I wonder how well non-drafted college players will be interested in going here instead of waiting for NFL minicamps and trying to catch on there instead. If the NFL gives its official blessing to the USFL’s role as a minor league that might help draw in these players. Also just a footnote, the web site I listed as the league’s in the first article was incorrect and the correct one is listed in this article. Sorry.

Has the United States Football League Returned?

Since I saw the original story on April 1, I was, an am, skeptical that it is the real deal, yet several news sources have reported that the league that played its last game in 1987 is back and this time it is taking a different approach.

The rights to the league have apparently been purchased by Jamie Cuadra, a San Diego businessman, according to a piece in the U-T San Diego, and according to the article he plans on having an eight team league that will play 14 games and then playoffs.

The goal is to place teams in towns like Akron, San Jose, Portland, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, Birmingham, Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge. He envisions it as sort of a minor league for the NFL, so that there will be no direct competition.

Caudra said that the issue with the USFL and the XFL was that they were not fiscally responsible and the current league will set caps on player pay. This is very similar to how the MLS currently operates. According to ProFootballTalk players will receive $3,000 to $3,500 per game. The season is tentatively slated to start in Spring 2013.

For those old enough to remember the league had a brief five year history where it positioned itself as a Spring alternative to the National Football League and was eventually driven out of business by its better accepted rival. It sued for anti-monopoly violations and won, exactly one dollar, although that might have then been tripled to three. The XFL’s short career started and ended in 2001.

As of the writing of this article a number of football sites have not yet mentioned this event. ESPN, with its huge NFL coverage machine came up a blank on its search engine as well. However there does appear to be a shiny new web site for the USFL. So is it real or is it fake? After all of the other interesting things I saw on the web yesterday I am voting fake for the time being.