It was no accident that the UFL formed after the NFL owners officially pulled out of the existing collective bargaining agreement. The UFL owners saw an opening and wanted to take advantage of it. That is why they had to begin playing in 09. It is also why they cut back from a projected 8 teams to just 4 but will stage games in 7 cities. They want to be around in 2010 and 2011 just in case there is a strike.
Right now, things don’t look all that good for the fans of the NFL. There are several indicators pointing toward a strike/lockout. First, the NFLPA has a new Executive Director. DeMaurice Smith is new. He beat out a couple of former players that publicly took hard line stances against the NFL but he is going to have to prove that he is tough enough to keep the job. The NFLPA members have heard from other candidates that the new agreement will eliminate the salary cap, increase the percentage of total revenue that the players get and increase benefits. All this in the face of the toughest economy since the depression.
When Smith took his office, he said that he would begin discussions with the league soon. There have been reports of some meetings but there are no indications of any serious discussions. The only meeting made public was described as an informal meet and greet.
Meanwhile, the NFL owners are intent on reducing the total take of the players and insist that the salary cap is non-negotiable. That is the stuff of a long and painful strike.
The UFL is starting out signing a few former NFL players that are known and plans to fill the rest of the teams with young players with potential. The official league tag line is “Where young stars come to play.” The league has signed experienced and well known NFL coaches including Dennis Green, Jim Haselet, Jim Fassel and Ted Cottrell to give the league some legitimacy. They will play on Thursday and Friday to avoid the NFL and major college football games. They are going to pay a lot less to their players. That should help them survive for a year or two.
The league has changed some of the less fan friendly rules from the NFL including allowing each team to get the ball once in overtime and eliminating the tuck rule. The greatest fan friendly rule will eliminate the NFL ban on touchdown end zone celebrations. The league has even announced that it will welcome players that have been suspended from the NFL including Mike Vick.
There is a better than even chance that the UFL will play some interesting and watchable football. The teams should be evenly matched. There are always good athletes that are not quite ready for the NFL that can profit from a developmental league. And you can bet the UFL will try to play wide open football.
The previous attempts to establish a rival football league have failed. But the previous attempts including the USFL and the XFL never had the stage all to themselves. If the NFL goes on strike even for a few games, the UFL will get a foothold. Whether or not they can survive long enough to take advantage of a work stoppage is a question. But the bigger question is whether the UFL can survive after the strike. The answer to that will only be known when the time comes.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .