In yesterday’s rant, I mentioned the USFL in passing. After I proofread the rant and posted it, I went to see what is up regarding the USFL simply out of curiosity. Here are a few things I learned from various reports:
- “USFL 2.0” has no connection with the original USFL from 40 years ago other than the name and the trademarks from the old league which were “allowed to go dormant”.
- FOX Sports has some sort of ownership stake in the enterprise that is not clear to me. FOX does provide a TV contract to the USFL which gives it a measure of credibility/stability. According to reports, FOX Sports will provide $150M to the league over the first 3 years of its existence and will seek to get an added $250M for the league from other “investors/partners”.
- NBC will also telecast a significant number of games. Scheduling calls for games on Saturday and Sunday with “special broadcasts” possibly on Fridays and/or Mondays. [Aside: No, I do not know what a “special broadcast” might be.]
- Mike Pereira is the Head of Officiating for the USFL and will remain as the “Rules Analyst” for FOX on NFL telecasts.
- “Moose” Johnston is the Executive VP of Football Operations for the USFL and a color analyst for FOX on NFL telecasts.
- This year, all games will be played in Birmingham, AL even though the teams will carry the names of cities around the country. The idea is to save funds on travel costs and for all the teams to transition to their “real homes” by 2024.
- The league will start with 8 teams; each team will have 38 roster players and 7 more players on a practice squad.
The league will hold its draft in late February. According to reports, there are two “interesting” names that are already in the draft pool. The first is Trent Richardson who came out of Alabama as the best thing since sliced bread at running back; he was drafted by the Browns with the third overall pick in 2012. Richardson lasted two seasons in the NFL – the Browns traded him to the Colts – and then he went to the Saskatchewan Rough Riders and then to the Alliance of American Football and is now affiliated somehow with the Caudillos de Chihuahua of Mexico in the Futbol Americano de Mexico. It seems to me that Richardson has taken to heart the lyrics of a song by Dion and the Belmonts from the 1960s:
“Oh yeah I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place I roam from town to town
And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl
I hop right into that car of mine and ride around the world
‘Cause I’m a wanderer, yeah a wanderer
I roam around around, around, around, around…”
The other interesting name in the draft pool that I ran across is Vinny Papale. He graduated from Delaware in 2019 and has been to mini-camps with the Raiders, Eagles and Football Team. He is the son of Vince Papale who made the Eagles as a walk-on back in the late 70s because Eagles’ coach Dick Vermeil was impressed by his work ethic. His father’s story was told in the movie, Invincible where Mark Wahlberg played the role of Vince Papale and Greg Kinnear played the role of Dick Vermeil.
There is a non-football side issue with the new version of the USFL that is interesting. All players and everyone on the staff in the USFL will have the opportunity to get a “tuition-free and debt-free” college degree. The league has a partnership with Capella University and Strayer University that will give players access to online classes for credit and in-person classes if they are available and are preferred by the players/staff. Moreover, these universities offer masters’ degrees in several fields meaning that players/staff who finished an undergraduate program could earn a graduate degree if they are interested.
That educational opportunity will probably have no bearing on the USFL’s on-field product, but it is an interesting twist on ways to compensate young football players.
One final thing I learned about the USFL is something I am not sure is such a good idea.
- The USFL will grant eligibility to any player who graduated high school in 2020 or earlier.
Some people graduate from high school at age 17; that means it is possible for a 19-year-old to be eligible for the USFL. Yes, I know about Herschel Walker and about Maurice Clarett. I also know that professional football is played in the main by adults who have spent a lot of time developing the musculature to withstand the violence of the game. The vast majority of 19-year-olds are not ready to take that sort of punishment.
I recognize that this is a situation of “free choice” by the participants and that 19-year-olds are legally adults. I still would prefer not to have them eligible for professional football.
So, there are some of the results of my meanderings through a Google search for “USFL”. The plan is to start the league on April 16th. The 8 teams will be divided into two divisions; each team will play a 10-game schedule consisting of 6 games against the other 3 division opponents and a single encounter with the 4 teams in the other division. The top two teams in each division will make the playoffs and the season should be over by the 4th of July.
Bonne chance USFL 2.0…
Finally, apropos of nothing, let me close today with words from Woody Allen:
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………