Thursday, May 10, 2012
USFL setting up for a comeback
Fast forward 25 years later and the USFL will be having a rebirth of sorts.
A reincarnation of the league, with an entirely different business model, plans to kick off in March. On Thursday, it included Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff among its advisers.
Biletnikoff will consult on football operations for the league, which originally went out of business in 1987 after losing millions of dollars and, despite winning a lawsuit against the NFL, being awarded just $3 in indemnities. That version unwisely chose to challenge the NFL, while this one will be more of a developmental league.
There won't be the outrageous salaries and contracts like the ones Steve Young and Herschel Walker received. There will be no stars like Mike Rozier or Jim Kelly gracing the field. And they won't be trying to go head to head with the NFL.
“We will not try to compete with the NFL at all,” said CEO Jaime Cuadra after adding Biletnikoff and James Bailey, an executive for the Cleveland Browns and then the Baltimore Ravens for 21 years, to the USFL’s board of advisers. The board will be responsible for guiding USFL management on various areas of operations, eventually focusing on a search for the league’s commissioner.
“We will play in markets where there are no NFL teams or major league baseball teams. It’s a league for guys who are on the bubble for making NFL teams, and we will have complete open access for the NFL. We want to build a model that is sustainable.”
The plan is to have eight teams, a 14 game season and three playoff games. The season will run from March to June.
Cities currently being considered are Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio or Austin, Texas; Columbus or Akron, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Memphis, Tenn.
“These are cities with underutilized facilities at that time of year,” Cuadra said.
Some of the same cities had USFL franchises before the league folded. The league is looking for a television partner which will be key for the league's relaunch. I like the idea of using this as a minor league of sorts, but I get the feeling we've seen this before and and already know how it'll play out.
“We have nothing lined up yet, and we are doing our research and investigating the landscape of sports television today, which is ever-changing,” Cuadra said.
On paper it looks like a good idea, but fans are fickle and are generally turned off by any kind of professional football league other than the NFL.