The USFL Is Making A Comeback, Will Be Nothing Like The Old USFL

Illustration for article titled The USFL Is Making A Comeback, Will Be Nothing Like The Old USFL

The United States Football League is apparently being reborn next March, with teams in eight cities playing a 14-game schedule through June 2013. Not everything is cemented yet, including which cities will actually get franchises, but the effort has attracted some noteworthy investors and advisors, including Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and Jim Steeg, who served as the NFL's senior vice president of special events (a.k.a. the guy who planned the Super Bowl every year).


The biggest difference this time around is that the USFL wants to resemble a development league, not a straight-up competitor, like the ill-fated XFL, still-foundering UFL, or the super-secret SPFL:

"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."


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.

Nearly all of them also have avid college football followings, something the USFL hopes to draw from. Cuadra said regional draft picks would be used so that, say, a player who attended Oregon or Oregon State would wind up with a Portland franchise.

Smart move, since the NFL, now a $9 billion-a-year global juggernaut, will likely never be beaten by any upstart league. (The original USFL actually had the last, best chance, if not for its incredible hubris and getting screwed over by Donald Trump.)

Still, the timing of its season may prove somewhat dicey. The NFL Draft is held in late April, but the USFL wants to start its season in March. We can presume the league's inaugural rosters will draw mostly on recent college grads who don't sign as free agents this fall, as well as NFL washouts looking for another chance to play. But what happens with the NFL Draft happens next April, in the middle of the USFL season? Will anyone who doesn't immediately get drafted be inclined to sign a quickie contract with a USFL franchise, to show they're ready for the NFL the following fall? That's when this might actually get interesting. You know, presuming the USFL actually happens.