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UFL needs to figure out whether it wants to compete with or complement NFL

When the UFL arrived on the sports scene, there was plenty of bluster regarding an aspiration to go toe-to-toe with the NFL.  Over time, that sentiment shifted; the UFL seemed to be willing to position itself to be an in-season minor league for the NFL.

But in a recent HDNet interview that has made its way to YouTube, league investor Mark Cuban dusted off some of the rhetoric that the UFL previously had abandoned.

“The idea of coming into the business of football and taking on the NFL, that’s about as exciting to me as you can get,” Cuban said.

Other comments from Cuban made us wonder whether he’s simply doing a little carnival barking for a sports league that most of the country has yet to notice.  For example, Cuban says that the UFL talent level “is off the charts” and that it’s “pretty much hand-in-hand with anything you’re gonna get from the NFL.”

Clearly, there’s a gap between the NFL and the UFL.  And the UFL needs to acknowledge that, if the UFL wants to survive and thrive, the UFL needs to set itself up as a complement to the NFL.

Right now, for example, a team like the Jaguars may want to “call up” Daunte Culpepper or Jeff Garcia.  And instead of cutting a guy like Trent Edwards, the Bills could have merely demoted him to the UFL affiliate in, say, Scranton.

Many details and issues would have to be resolved if a true farm system were to emerge, but the best long-term plan for the UFL seems to be not to engage the NFL but to embrace the UFL’s potential role as a partner with the NFL. 

For now, though, the UFL needs to get noticed.  And one way for the UFL to get noticed is to declare to the world that it’s going to try to hit Goliath in the head with a rock.

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29 Responses to “UFL needs to figure out whether it wants to compete with or complement NFL”
  1. Old School says: Sep 29, 2010 10:05 AM

    It seems to me if the NFL is going to do away with much of the OTA’s and preseason games, a developemental league would be a good fit – see baseball minor league system.
    Short of that, NFL teams may pick their rosters by throwing darts at a board with the names of players they have rights to. The drafty is already a crap shoot.

  2. jj jones says: Sep 29, 2010 10:07 AM

    The UFL doesn’t need to do anything until the NFL gets their labor situation under control. The UFL is sitting on a potential goldmine next season. If there is a lockout, there will be a large number of NFL players in need of a paycheck. Hello UFL!!

  3. NYCGatorOX says: Sep 29, 2010 10:14 AM

    How about we just relegate the Bills and Jags to the UFL in toto?

  4. Strick says: Sep 29, 2010 10:17 AM

    The XFL had the same choice. They chose to compete with the NFL – and were crushed.
    If Cuban and the rest of the UFL-ers were smart, they’d have no problem being the NFL’s minor leagues.

  5. realitypolice says: Sep 29, 2010 10:18 AM

    Mark Cuban is too smart to believe that the UFL is comparable talent wise to the NFL.
    Of course, he wasn’t too smart to believe that a team led by a 150 year old Jason Kidd could win the NBA title. So, there’s that.
    The UFL is only viable as a long term proposition if it works WITH the NFL. Their strategy of loading up with name talent and focusing on markets without NFL teams will get them started, but they don’t want to wake the giant.
    Ask the USFL how that tends to work out.

  6. grr215 says: Sep 29, 2010 10:18 AM

    the only thing that can possibly “take on” the NFL is college football. If the UFL wants to truly make a statement do not have all of the DUMB penalties the NFL has, dont make the QB untouchable, and allow TD celebrations! dont be a jounior No Fun League!

  7. Complete Fan says: Sep 29, 2010 10:21 AM

    It’s a bit early for the UFL to talk about going head-to-head. That’s what the USFL wanted to do. I watched the weekend games and the product is good, not NFL of course, but good. Build that product in the cities they’re in then worry about taking on the NFL.

  8. cbrianwatkins says: Sep 29, 2010 10:22 AM

    “For now, though, the UFL needs to get noticed.”
    yeah they should actually advertise their league, maybe pay for a 30second spot on a major TV network, show a commercial, put a billboard
    its unbelievable the lack of marketing they have

  9. jobob247 says: Sep 29, 2010 10:52 AM

    Donald Trump and USFL anyone? Better tread carefully here.

  10. DoncoHater says: Sep 29, 2010 11:01 AM

    “the only thing that can possibly “take on” the NFL is college football. If the UFL wants to truly make a statement do not have all of the DUMB penalties the NFL has, dont make the QB untouchable, and allow TD celebrations! dont be a jounior No Fun League!”
    With all due respect, I feel TD celebrations have gotten WAY out of hand. It’s stupid and childish attention grabbing. That’s it! Jim Brown even called it “Buffoonery”. Personally, I get enjoyment and excitement out of seeing the player score, not from what he does afterwards. I miss the days when a player would just spike the ball, perhaps slap a high-five or two, and then trot back to the sideline. A reporter once asked Barry Sanders if he ever felt like doing something unusual or flashy after scoring a TD to put an exclamation point on it. Barry’s response was “Why not a period?” Amen.

  11. thejetsman says: Sep 29, 2010 11:04 AM

    They can’t be the minor league ncaa is the minor league, I don’t want to see this sport watered down like baseball has been so the owners get a bigger wallet

  12. jj jones says: Sep 29, 2010 11:06 AM

    “NYCGatorOX says:
    September 29, 2010 10:14 AM
    How about we just relegate the Bills and Jags to the UFL in toto?”
    I don’t know toto, why not?

  13. FinFan68 says: Sep 29, 2010 11:20 AM

    The league is too small right now and has already dropped teams from some cities and added teams in others. I remember the USFL and I liked watching those teams play. The same talent arguments were made back then but the USFL had guys like Reggie White, Jim Kelley, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, etc… and coaches (Jim Mora, etc.) got their professional reputations in that league. It moved teams around and even combined teams but it failed because it tried to take on the NFL. The UFL would be better served to fill in the void between the SuperBowl and the start of the NFL season when NFL fans are literally starving for football. The issue is “drafting” players from college forces a later season (head to head with the NFL) or those players wouldn’t play until the following spring.

  14. Patsfan1776 says: Sep 29, 2010 11:22 AM

    Goliath is going to hit themselves in the head with a rock when they lock out/strike and take the matter to the courts. The UFL will only need to step over the dead carcass.

  15. PatricktheDookie says: Sep 29, 2010 11:28 AM

    Remember Arena football?
    The league was pretty profitable in small markets before big money got into the system and tried to expand too fast – crashing the league completely.
    So, no, I don’t think the UFL needs more national marketing. What they need is to focus on the regional level and continue building upon a stable league foundation. And if there’s a lockout next season, the UFL is in prime position to become a household name (with some luck).

  16. BuckyBadger says: Sep 29, 2010 11:31 AM

    They only way for this league to survive is too make itself a minor league affiliate to the NFL.
    Each team from the AFC should pair up with a team in the NFC to affiliate itself with an UFL team. Say the Packers and Broncos [my to fav teams] team up to help form their teams. The fans from both franchises would be interested in the team since they would have players they would want to know as they soon could be playing on the Varsity squad.
    The only problem I would see is who would coach and hand out playing time. Both franchises would want their players to get the playing time but something could get worked out here.

  17. Ralph says: Sep 29, 2010 11:34 AM

    if they want to take someone on, take on the NCAA. Go after the players who have no business claiming to be a “student athlete”.
    That’s how you become the NFL’s minor league.
    No need to pretend to pay the players, pay them to suit up and actually play the game and skip the illusion that they’re there to get a college degree.
    A steady paycheck with the opportunity to jump to the big league, mid season will draw plenty of talent.

  18. DH says: Sep 29, 2010 11:44 AM

    Maybe the UFL should have the same rules as the late 80′s NFL so there isn’t pass interference calls on every play and roughing the passer if you cough on the quarterback. Bring back the smash mouth style and i will gladly become a UFL fan

  19. Benny Mendenberger-Ward says: Sep 29, 2010 11:56 AM

    Unless there is a lockout and it is lengthy, I think they should relegate themselves to being the NFL’s minor league.

  20. Jungle Juice says: Sep 29, 2010 12:32 PM

    If the Players Union was smart they would join up with the UFL and add player-owned teams when the contract ends. Then they could get the whole pie.
    The NFL owners are playing with fire right now.

  21. Duan says: Sep 29, 2010 12:35 PM

    @ Old School
    You made a excellent point – if the NFL is going to go to a 18 game schedule – then they best need to partner up with UFL.
    The only issue I see, player rights?
    There are 32 teams and only 5 UFL teams.
    If you look at the Browns – Holmgren is not going to shair players with another team – he would want his own minor league team to pull prospects from and/or to demote players to.
    How do you fill 27 markets with teams, the rosters, the pay scale, the draft (do you have one NFL draft or a NFL draft and a UFL draft, or just extend the NFL draft) – etc. etc.
    But that would certainly be interesting – if each team had a minor league team like baseball?

  22. cornflorio says: Sep 29, 2010 12:41 PM

    Cuban says that the UFL talent level “is off the charts” and that it’s “pretty much hand-in-hand with anything you’re gonna get from the NFL.”
    At first glance, Cuban sounds like he’s on crack, but then I remembered that currently, the Omaha Nighthawks quarterback situation is in better shape than the Bills, Cardinals, Raiders, and Browns.

  23. BasicInstinct says: Sep 29, 2010 12:41 PM

    If they would schedule a game on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday……they would get a huge national audience…….until the lockout, then they can have Sunday and Monday too!
    I need football every night!!!!!

  24. texasPHINSfan says: Sep 29, 2010 12:42 PM

    The first thing they need to work on is television contracts.
    I don’t get HDnet or any of its subsidaries or affiliates, and apparently if you don’t get that channel(s), you’re not watching the games.

  25. slowfame says: Sep 29, 2010 12:50 PM

    15,000 people came and watched the Mountain Lions play. Regardless its great for these “inbetween” cities to get some football. Its great for the pop warner kids that cant afford to go to NFL games. And it employees more people in the football industry. Tired of the “elite” trying to cannibilize this leaugue.

  26. Rmbay says: Sep 29, 2010 1:05 PM

    I think Goodell has already stated the league preference for having a minor (developmental) league in the spring.
    Also, as a fan I’d have an issue with being a fan of a UFL team in those circumstances. What if my team is 8-2 and heading for the championship game only to see my QB get “called up” to the NFL? One can say it’s no different than baseball, but I think the fewer amount of games, higher cost of attending them and higher probability of call-ups are all small but important factors in enjoying it less.

  27. NoHomeTeam says: Sep 29, 2010 2:37 PM

    texasPHINSfan says: “The first thing they need to work on is television contracts.”
    Amen, PHIN.
    Still get my TV the old-fashioned way — I pull it in off the air for free. I have no intention of adding a cable or satellite bill to the monthly budget.
    I’d be interested in watching the UFL — heck, I watched the Arena League before it disappeared back to the depths of cable TV. There are independent stations in just about every major market. The My[channel number here] “network” comes to mind. We’ve also got the independents KTLA and KCAL here in Los Angeles, and I’m positive that there are similar stations around the country. If the UFL were to offer its content to stations like this at reasonable prices, they would greatly expand their viewership.

  28. duxrunuhmux says: Sep 29, 2010 8:49 PM

    The UFL is pretty darn close to NFL quality. There is a big difference in the NFL between starters and backups. Most UFL players fall between there. Inevitably, some guys will go from the UFL to become stars in the NFL. Just like has happened in CFL and AFL(arena). UFL talent overall is much better than any other non-NFL league that’s ever existed since the old AFL. They do need more marketing and TV, but they said from the start they will grow slowly and steadily with quality and value instead of trying to get too big too quick and tanking. It’s a fun league and I enjoy it every bit as much as NFL. But they are a much better value. I can watch every game for free. I can go to a game for $15. Hell yeah! UFL > NFL in bang for buck any day.

  29. Alex35332 says: Oct 15, 2010 10:17 AM

    I would love to see the NFL eventually use the UFL as a farm system.
    People who claim College football is the farm may not have noticed, but the failure rate for draft picks has been epic, and with so many teams running niche offenses its only going to get worse.
    the NFL needs the UFL so they can up the talent pool. They need QB’s to know how to play from under center, not just shotgun. They need linemen who can pass AND run block.
    32 UFL teams 1 NFL partner for each. Expand the combined roster of each to somewhere around 95 players.

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