Wednesday, July 22, 2009

United Football League (UFL): Can it Survive?

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-Digger's Daily-

A new generation of American Football is getting ready for its' inaugural season. Has anyone heard of the United Football League? The UFL attempts to do what previously has not been done by leagues attempting to rival the NFL, become a success. USFL, XFL, WFL & WLAF were short lived leagues. One wonders how a four team UFL can survive playing a six game schedule? Perhaps it's best to begin small and build for the future.

The four teams will represent cities from New York/Hartford, Orlando, Las Vegas/Los Angeles and San Francisco/Sacramento. In a couple of weeks, UFL is expected to announce team nicknames for the four franchises and unveil the new uniforms for each organization. Yes, New York/Hartford is a single franchise even though it sports a dual city name (same for Las Vegas/LA & SF/Sacramento).

I'm hoping UFL can make a serious run at respectability. At the same time, I'm amazed at the lack of marketing for the new league. With little or no fanfare, UFL held it's first draft last month. Very few recognizable names come from the draft. UFL is hoping to add some star power after NFL teams make their final cuts. Players cut from pro teams looking for action might jump into the mix. Former Buffalo Bills QB JP Losman recently signed with Las Vegas. He's been pinned up as poster child. Not quite the same as USFL signing Steve Young and Hershal Walker types. Not even close.

Remember the USFL (United States Football League)? They had a chance to contend with NFL squads. Big name team owners (Donald Trump). A few big name stars featuring the likes of Walker, Young, Jim Kelly, Jim Smith and Reggie White come to mind. UFL's JP Losman isn't quite the same stature. What this league does have is four recognizable head coaches. Guiding Orlando is ex-Saints coach Jim Haslett. Former Vikings and Cardinals coach Dennis Green will be in San Francisco. Ex-Giants head coach Jim Fassel will coach Las Vegas and long-time NFL coordinator Ted Cotrell is in New York.

Initial UFL investors are Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and former investment banker Bill Hambrecht. Televising one game per week will be the Versus Network (who?). Clearly this is a brand with no product recognition, lack of marketing and a tremendous lack of star power. Four teams, six game schedule, no national exposure, not even team names as of yet. A very conservative approach has been taken getting this league up and running. Perhaps, too conservative to think they'll have a shot at long term success.

UFL's biggest boost might come from suspended NFLer Michael Vick. If he's denied reinstatement to play this year in the NFL, UFL owners hope Vick might opt to play in their new league.. It'll be a longshot to see Vick suit up for UFL even if denied re-entry into NFL for the 2009 season.

The question remains, how can this league survive with a lack of star power?

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