New USFL aims to be true NFL minor league


The USFL is back.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke.  The four-letter league from the 1980s that started with modest aspirations and then allowed success to go to its head, prompting a Trumped-up failed competition with the NFL and a successful lawsuit that yielded just enough to buy 60 percent of a five-dollar footlong, plans to return as a true NFL minor league.

52-year-old Jamie Cuadra has acquired the brand, and he plans to launch a cost-conscious league with teams in cities that have neither pro football nor major league baseball.

Jim Steeg, who served as COO of the Chargers and organized the Super Bowl for 34 years, is assisting the effort in an unpaid (for now) capacity.  “I like the idea a lot,” Steeg tells Nick Canepa of U-T San Diego. “I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks the idea sucks.  If you truly believe a triple-A spring football league has merit, this is the way to go.  It’s not meant to compete with the NFL.  It will give players the opportunity to develop.  There are 3,000 football players and only 1,800 roster spots in the NFL.  Particularly with the NFL’s new CBA, I think this kind of thing has a different place.”

Players will receive $3,000 to $3,500 per game, far more than the Arena League pays.  And the NFL will have “unfettered access” to the players, allowing them to leave whenever they want.

Target cities include Akron, Ohio, Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Texas, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge, La.  The USFL also hopes to hire a Commissioner with “Hall of Fame credentials,” with Cuadra in the background running the business.

“I’m one of those guys who always said when other people got things started: ‘That’s a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that?’” Cuadra said.  “That’s what I’m doing.  It’s a romantic idea, but a romantic idea with legs.”

It’s definitely a good idea, and it would be an even better idea if the games were played during actual football season, in cities that have neither NFL nor major-college football, with a direct NFL association and baseball-style call-up and send-down pipelines.

72 responses to “New USFL aims to be true NFL minor league

  1. They should put a team in Miami or Cleveland – those people deserve a chance to watch good football.

  2. Max, see above where it says it’s not an April Fools joke. If you’re going to spring one, you don’t say it’s not.

    Put a franchise in Rochester, NY! A couple of good stadium options there.

  3. I think this is a great idea. I often wondered why there has been no interest in an NFL farm system, only the CFL as a proving ground, post college. I’m glad someone is pursuing this, it could be great for American football in general.

  4. I like the concept, but they shouldn’t play in the spring. Spring football just screams amateur hour. Play in the fall with designated call up dates. Season could start in late September after the dust settles around NFL final cuts.

  5. If this is an April Fools Day story, Max, then I’m going to swallow it hook, line, and sinker as well as bobber, pole, and reel, with the whale that gobbled up Jonah as dessert.

    The idea has merit.

    Iowa City should be added to the mix. And Hartford (the “Sports Television Capital of the World”) shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Git my popcorn ready.

  6. One other anti-Spring thought. This is supposed to be a developmental league. So they’re going to have these guys play let’s say an 8-10 game schedule in the Spring…probably ending right before NFL training camps start. If these fringe guys are playing for a shot in the NFL, aren’t we doing the lucky few a disservice by having them show up for training camp with tired legs and sprained ankles?

  7. I thought the UFL was already doing this, and going it sort of well as far as player development and loading up on NFL guys. I think this is just big talk and fabricated hype from the new owner of the USFL trademark, who does not have any official relationship with the NFL from what I can see.

  8. I am shocked the NFL hasn’t done this yet. Creates an outlet for offseason interest and creates a new revenue stream. NFL obsessed fans will flock to these games. I will.

  9. Dayton, Ohio.
    Their minor league baseball team sells out every game and they have a stadium in place. Plus there isn’t anything else to do there haha.

  10. Are they talking Portland east or west? We’d love to have a team up here in Maine! Red claws & pirates have been doing well.

  11. The NFL very much needs a minor league system of some sort. A “practice squad” doesn’t suffice. I always thought that maybe they could look to the CFL as an option; but I’m sure the obnoxious Canadians would be insulted by the notion that their league would be nothing but minor in comparison (even though when you see CFL games on NFL Network there’s like 200 people in the stands).

  12. All 32 NFL teams would have to field a “minor league affiliate”…

    a fallback option could be a team from the NFC and a team from the AFC splitting ownership of a team.

    The problem would be that the player call up system would have to work on the waiver wire system otherwise.

    Or a team can sign a player and place him on a roster, thus always owning his rights. This could get tricky.

    Very interesting, and I have been talking about this for years. Would generate real income and be a nice place for veteran players alike to show they still have a few more years left.

  13. As long as Trump doesn’t run it, I’m cool with it. Hopefully, they’ll move to Pro Bowl to this league and keep the pros from playing another game.

  14. I think it would be interesting if eventually each NFL team had its own farm team much like the NHL and MLB, a player gets hurt and you can call them up from the minors, its a step under the practice squad but it allows you to carry a replacement for the entire roster and allows these players to develop instead of sitting on the couch waiting for the call up! Put a set of rules in place similar to the practice squad… a team can offer another teams farm squad player a shot on its active roster if they will start, not ride the bench, but the player has a right to refuse if they want to stay on the team… I can see it now… “I’ll trade you a 5th rd pick and our DT prospect for your backup CB” I like it!

  15. It’s a good idea.

    Also, I don’t mean to nitpick, but I’m pretty sure your list should include some semicolons.

    Akron, Ohio; Portland; San Jose; Salt Lake City; Sacramento; Austin, Texas; Memphis; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; Omaha, Neb.; and Baton Rouge, La.

  16. Max Strauss says:
    Apr 1, 2012 9:53 AM
    Good catch! I think you are right, but I hope we are both wrong.

  17. I wish a league could come along and directly compete with big time college football for its best players. This would force some of the arrogance out of that level. College ball would be forced into a playoff, it would force teams to not necessarily pay players directly but at least let them profit off their names in forms of endorsements. Best of all it would force college ball to inovate and get rid of things in its system that make little to no sense like the bowl system.

  18. To me it still makes more sense for each NFL team to have a JR Team.

    A – Instant fan connection.
    B – Gives the NFL all those extra games it wants. C – Doubles stadium dates for expensive stadiums.
    D – Priced so the rest of the fans can reasonably go see a game.

    The only negative I can see is that general fans start to follow it more due to costs. But I would still try it, if that happened you can adjust it or kill it.

  19. It all sounds great except for the part that they want play at the same time NFL and College Football is playing. They need to start the league in late March and run till late late June or early July.

  20. As they already have teams in Philly and NJ
    Maybe the Jets or egirls can get something in the trophy case

    4 time 4 time SB Champion NY Gaints

    Eli the Elite Manning 2 Time 2 Time SB MVP

  21. CFL will be playing it’s 100th Grey Cup game in Toronto this year:) It has been around longer than the NFL or AFL, & it is a part of Canadian culture. It is very well supported thanks, & it has survived every other league including the Obnoxious XFL lol. It has provided opportunity for American football players to enjoy great success & be loved by the fans. Some of these players are/were amazing football players & we love football! & some have adopted Canada as their new home, & that is a testament. It has been a survivor, & the difference is… in Canada this is Our League & we love it!!

  22. Can they set it up like the European soccer leagues. Where if you suck for a certain amount of years, your team gets demoted to the USFL. Maybe then Cleveland, Jacksonville and Washington would try to be competitive, or risk getting replaced by Omaha, or Akron.

  23. It’s definitely a good idea, and it would be an even better idea if the games were played during actual football season, in cities that have neither NFL nor major-college football, with a direct NFL association and baseball-style call-up and send-down pipelines.
    Didn’t you just include in your article how the league doesn’t intend to compete with the NFL?

    You never cease to amaze me.

  24. If every NFL team has a farm team I think they need to put a team in Columbus and either share the shoe or even crew stadium makes a nice venue for football. I think the games should also be played at the same time as the NFL games or the calling up and sending down would not work because these guys would get out of shape in the offseason. Football is a sport you need to be in game form and ready to play or you won’t be able to make any kind of real impact. The games should be played on either Weds or Thurs during the week that way they won’t have to complete with college or NFL games though I know there is always a college game on Thursday but its usually one game a week and only has a big showing in the region the game is played in so Thurs could still work.

  25. Good luck with that Akron Ohio team. That place in the wild west. NOBODY from Cleveland would ever dream of going there for a football game. It’s a dump and their is total lawlessness. A 17 month old baby OD’ed in a house that was cooking meth last month. The fumes burned it’s lungs out.
    Canton, maybe, Akron… NO WAY !

  26. I doubt the University of Texas will allow this league to operate in Austin. I assume they want to use DKR Stadium ? Won’t happen.

    They should be in San Antonio at the Alamodome.

  27. You give me football based in America with what amounts to practice squad players and Victor Cruz hopefuls when most folks’ thoughts turn to baseball?


    I’m football starved, man…how else do you explain the endless hits I give PFT during the week?

  28. Charleston, SC….. I’m telling you, we spend money on leisure activities here. Our bottom tier hockey does alright and our single A baseball is a party every home-game, and they’re awful. Fun small city with a small coliseum.

  29. “Target cities include Akron, Ohio, Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Texas, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge, La.”

    ^^^The punctuation in that sentence is the biggest April Fool’s joke I’ve seen in years.

  30. Spring football will never fly. If they’re serious about this they need to go against the existing minor league football system. College football. They should play their games on Saturday afternoons and go head to head against the NCAA.

    All they need to do is get enough funding to start paying the elite guys out of high school. It will be a pay cut for some of those guys, but at least it will be all above board. Before long, all the blue chippers will be going to the USFL, and college football can go back to the true student athletes where it belongs.

  31. “It’s definitely a good idea, and it would be an even better idea if the games were played during actual football season, in cities that have neither NFL nor major-college football, with a direct NFL association and baseball-style call-up and send-down pipelines.”


  32. And you could do it in football cities too. I live in Gilbert, AZ and it’s a good hour to drive and see the Cardinals. There are 3.5 million people in the valley and most of them aren’t from here and don’t care about the Cardinals.

  33. I’d really love if the NFL backed a second league as its partner/development system, that way we could write off the AFL, AFL2, IFL, UFL as leagues for up and comers.. I’ve seen quite a few roster spots wasted on guys that showed potential while playing in a D3 Pro league..

  34. Also, bring a team to Tucson! This city has nothing pro-wise but I’m sure a team could play at the University of Arizona..

  35. Andyreidis … Whatever else your name is.
    Canadians are bot obnoxious enough to think the CFL is a comparison to the NFL because the CFL is it’s on kind of football & obviously doesn’t have the talent level. The 200 folks in the stands you are referring to are accompanied with 29 800 fellow fans. If the NFL thought this was a good idea they would have made their own minor league. The NFL enjoys having the CFL run its own league & has paid the CFL the right to sign CFL’ers in their option league which is a win-win for the NFL & CFL. The NFL is very happy with this relationship & is probably why they haven’t help fund any of these unsuccessfull secondary American leagues (which has nothing to do with Americans). The costs in starting up a league aretoo expensive with no guarantee of success. Thats hy the NFL continues to throw a few bucks at the CFL & have a great relationship to sign players. Read the facts first now go eat another burger Andy

  36. A true minor league system with each team having its own affiliate would help the level of play on the NFL gridiron. Your team could lose a player on Sunday and could call up a player who already knows the playbook and is being molded for that system. The younger players would have a much easier transition to the playing field. It is a great idea that should been in process 30 years ago.

  37. I think this is a great idea. it will be popular and will hopefully put further pressure on the NCAA to rethink their student athlete rules.

  38. But like every other alleged minor league it will try to act like a pro league!!!!

    And then comes bankruptcy!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. The NFL really does need a minor league. I’d love to see this happen. I know that I’d be more than willing to make the drive from LSU over to wherever a minor league team was playing in Baton Rouge (even better if they’re playing at Tiger Stadium)

  40. They can put a team in Minnesota once the Wipings leave for LaLaLand. Or make the Wipings a USFL team.

  41. Norfolk/Virginia Beach area would do well with a team. We have minor league baseball and hockey now. Football would add to the excitement.

  42. Would love to see a “Patriot’s ” team in either Worcester, MA, or Hartford, CT!

  43. I love it. This is cool. This is football for people who work for a living. Taking your entire family to a football game without breaking the bank .. what a concept!

    No luxury boxes. No $10 hot dogs. Just real football for real fans.

    Bring a team to the extended LA-metro area. We have lots of stadiums around here. Someplace like Ontario or Irvine or Long Beach.

  44. The MLB, NBA does it well enough that the NFL should have been paying attention and in Europe, the soccer team’s all have a reserve squad/practice squad that plays games just like the bigger brother.

    I agree, it is another revenue source for the NFL.

  45. GREAT IDEA…but NO! NO! Do not play in the spring…spring is for baseball…and you have basketball, hockey seasons headed into playoffs….it is not football season

    People need that long break…makes the heart grow fonder…..

    Play in the fall, but play on Wednesday and Thursday nights!

    BUT…great idea…..! Bring back the Memphis Showboats!

  46. The USFL was successful in the 80’s when it was a SPRING league. It failed when Trump got greedy and tried to compete against the NFL and the season was played in the fall. Donald Trump killed the USFL. Check out the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on it.

    It was a wild success in the spring and the league was willing to pay good $ for contracts and drew big name players. Games were televised on ESPN and ABC. It was a fun league.

    I think it would be successful again if the teams were in football starved cities and the league was able to acquire some real talent and not solely NFL rejects or guys not good enough to make it to the NFL.

  47. I’m from Richmond,VA and we DESPERATELY need a football team here! I play semi-pro football, linebacker, and I love it but it would be great to showcase my skill/talent and get paid for it at the same time. Please consider Richmond,VA as a location for a USFL team!!

  48. It wasn’t a “wild success”, but it was popular enough that it probably could have survived if Donald Trump, Eddie Einhorn, and J. William Oldenburg, and Clinton Manges had never been allowed to buy teams.

    Frankly if Walter Payton had signed the contract with the Chicago Blitz, that could have done it too.

  49. “If you truly believe a triple-A spring football league has merit, this is the way to go. ”

    I think that statement is dead on and to the point. If you believe that AAA football will draw enough fans to become self-sufficient, you like the new USFL concept.

    I don’t think AAA fan support will ever prove capable of paying a roster of 53+ players, a full coaching staff, and team personnel.

    I cite the CFL as evidence. They need north of 19K per game for their teams to stay in business. AAA football (like the UFL) will pull about 10- 12K.

  50. The USFL had major problems getting their spring TV deal re-negotiated. If they were as wildly successful as the 30 by 30 special suggested, renegotiating that deal would not have been that hard.

    As it was, the lawsuit against the NFL was in large part to pave the way for more TV suitors. Only as the lawsuit continued and the USFL owners spoke more and more about fall football did the networks come forward with sweet terms to try to keep them in the spring.

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