Analysis: The UFL stakes everything on an NFL lockout.

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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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,STRIKE,UFL,NFLPA,COLLEGE FOOTBALL,VICK,suspension,Smith,salary cap,revenue

The NFL Drug testing policy is in jeopardy in the Courts.

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To many, the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the NFL prohibiting them from suspending Viking DTs Kevin and Pat Williams for the first 4 games of the 2009 season might look like no big deal. Those people would be totally wrong. It is a huge deal involving several issues including the ability of the NFL and other professional leagues to suspend players for taking unauthorized drugs.

The drug involved in the Williams’ case is basically water pills. The NFL has put the drug on the baned list for two reasons. First, some claim the drug is useful as a masking agent for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.

The second reason that this and similar drugs are on the baned list is the safety of the player taking it. Don’t forget it was a Viking OT Korey Stringer in 2001 that died from heat stroke after reportedly taking water pills for weight loss. The Williams’ both claim that they were taking the drug for exactly the same reason and did not know that what they had taken contained ingredients that were illegal.

Another major issue for the NFL is that the Minnesota State court system has gotten involved in the issue. It was a state judge that issued the original TRO. The NFL has always claimed that it is not subject to state courts because it is a single national organization with local franchises. The claim filed by the NFL with the Minnesota court that they were not subject to state jurisdiction was rejected.

If this issue rings a bell, it is because the federal court law suit by Needle against the NFL involves the issue of the league’s ability to sign an exclusive apparel deal with a single vendor.

Several reports indicate that the NFL has tried to negotiate a lessor suspension like 2 games in exchange for the Williams’ dropping their law suit. Neither player has budged saying that they did nothing wrong and would not accept any suspension. That offer by the NFL is an indication that they realize that their entire drug program could hang in the balance with this law suit.

The programs of all other professional leagues will also be subject to challenge should the NFL fail to win the day. All professional league programs are built on competitive balance, player safety and union/league agreement. Those programs will be at risk should the NFL’s long standing program be judged illegal even in part. The challenge is not only that the league’s right to suspend players for taking certain drugs but that the league does not have the authority to determine which drugs should and should not be on the list.

Look for the league to lose the case and appeal it to the federal court of appeals. Then the challenge will be whether or not the federal court will hear the case. If they refuse leaving a state court finding against the league without taking the case, the NFL can expect to spend a lot of time in state courts all over the league on various issues.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

Technorati Tags: NFL,Drugs,Williams,TRO,state court,Needle,NBA,NHL,MLB,drug policy,suspension

Should they stay or should they go (pro)?

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Fryingpan Sports

Should they stay or should they go (pro)?

By Bill Smith

Clash had a song “Should I stay or should I go.” That same question is on the minds of a lot of college basketball players now that the season is over. Should they go pro or stay for another year of college ball?

It depends.

If the player had a particularly strong year and tournament, their stock is most likely as high as it is going to get. If not, or if the player had a down year due to injury, they are better off staying.

Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) will be the first overall choice. He has a combination of power, athleticism and explosiveness that scouts love. He also has an extremely high BB IQ. He has announced that he will enter the 09 NBA draft.

Generally, if a player is going to selected in the first round of the NBA or NFL draft, he should go. In the recent past, several big name athletes have made the mistake of staying one year too long. For example, after the 2007 season LB James Laurinaitis (Ohio State) would have been a top 10 pick in the 2008 draft. In several rankings, he was listed as the top overall junior prospect if he were to announce for the draft. He wanted to stay along with a number of other OSU players to try to win a national championship in 2008. I salute those that stay in college out of loyalty to their team, their coach and their school. However, staying the extra year cost him millions of dollars in his first contract. Right now, Laurinaitis is projected to be a late first or early second round pick.

His fall has as much to do with the needs of the teams in the top half of the draft and the other players coming out this year as it does with Laurinaitis as it does with his play in 2008. But falling is a risk you take making the decision to come out or stay. Both Beanie Wells (RB Ohio State) and Malcolm Jenkins (CB OSU) have fallen from what their value would have been in the 2008 draft as well.

In Wells’ case, it was the injury in the first game that has put him behind other RBs on some draft boards. That limited his totals and kept him out of the game against USC. Even after he came back, he was not 100% healthy and that hurt his performance.

Jenkins has fallen due to a slower than expected time in the 40 yard dash at the combine. While he improved on it at his pro day at OSU, there are still teams that wonder if he has the speed to be a shut down corner. If not, he will be drafted as a safety, a position that is seldom drafted before the middle of the 2nd round.

This year in the NBA draft, several players that are coming out should stay in school. Others that are staying that would probably be better off entering the draft.

I do think that the NBA rule that permits a player that has not hired an agent to change his mind is a good thing. The NFL would do well to adopt something similar. I also support both leagues’ programs that give a player an independent evaluation of where he might be taken. This too supports the player’s ability to make a good decision. As I said yesterday, the choice should be with the player and his support team and not with the league or the union involved.

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 He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

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