New USFL hits fairly major snag

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Americans seem to have a thirst for more pro football than what we currently get from the NFL.  But apart from the indoor oddity known as the Arena Football League, which seems to inconspicuously tread water in the distant background of the sports landscape, no viable supplement to the NFL has emerged.

The UFL (which abruptly disappeared during its 2012 season) felt doomed for the start, with big talk, small budgets, and a stubborn reluctance to fill the much-needed niche for a true minor league.

Enter the USFL, an ’80s league that lured players like Jim Kelly (pictured) and Reggie White away from the NFL.  The resurrected four-letter brand has been laying the foundation for a return that wouldn’t rival the NFL but complement it, with franchises in cities that don’t have NFL teams and a free and open path for any players deemed good enough to go to the next level.

“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?’” said Jaime Cuadra, the man who brought the USFL back, in early 2012.  “That’s what I’m doing.  It’s a romantic idea, but a romantic idea with legs.”

Unfortunately, those legs are about to be shackled.

According to U-T San Diego, Cuadra has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1 million from a pair of companies.  The money primarily went to fund Cuadra’s football league.

He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and to filing a false federal income tax return.  The money was taken from Oceanic Enterprises Inc. and Umami Sustainable Seafood Inc.  Cuadra faces up to 22 years in prison.

In March, Cuadra quietly resigned from the USFL to “attend to personal matters.”  Former Browns/Ravens executive Jim Bailey assumed control of the operation, and he has said the USFL now plans to return in 2014, with an eight-team league playing a 14-game schedule.

Maybe it will still work.  But the looming incarceration of the man who chided the original USFL and UFL for not being “fiscally responsible” makes an uphill climb even more steep.

42 responses to “New USFL hits fairly major snag

  1. it seems rather strange and sad to me that the professional football league of America the NFL is the only professional sport league that has no established developmental arm. Hockey has the American hockey league basketball has their summer league and I remember the old Continental basketball Association and baseball of course has the international and Pacific Coast league.

    The strangest thing to me regarding the lack of a developmental league football is that of all those sports football probably has the biggest supply of talent to be developed over all of the other sports.

    I’m old enough to remember the Continental football league the Atlantic Coast football league and minor league football system. There was also at one time a week known as the North American football.

    I find it rather strange that with all the wealth of the National Football League that they could not have taken one of these minor-league systems and funded them as a developmental league for the NFL with 32 teams in the NFL if East Timor to contribute six players who were previously either on taxi squad or released you could develop a lot of good players for the NFL over very short period of time. The powers that be in the NFL in my opinion would be intelligence if they were to assist in the reestablishment of the USFL as their developmental league. Remember NFL Europe and some of the players that were developed out of that league and that was done totally on a shoestring. Just my two cents

  2. In my dream world, nfl teams could send 8 players per team to a USFL team and be able to draft players right out of high school. For example, in a draft where the #1 pick was a toss up between tackles, a team could take a qb right out of high school and stash him in the USFL for a year or two.

  3. The NFL has a developmental league. Its the NCAA FBS division. Why shell out expenses when tv and college boosters do it for you?

  4. The old USFL was fun to watch (yes, I watched as many games as I could back in the day) and was doing OK. Sure, teams folded, moved to new towns or combined with other teams but that is exactly how the NFL started. Once Donald Trump’s ego convinced the others to challenge the NFL, the USFL was doomed. It would have been just fine filling the void between the Super Bowl and the regular season when fans are starving for football. It can still work in the right towns and with the right mentality. If the financial guys are looking for NFL type money they should find something else.

  5. Hockey actually has multiple minor leagues in North America. The NHL is the only pro league, but there is also:
    American Hockey League (AHL)
    East Coast Hockey League (ECHL)
    Central Hockey League (CHL)
    Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL)
    +2 other Canadian leagues.

    That doesn’t include the dozens of junior leagues that college/young players participate in. The NFL has… what, the NCAA? Weird.

  6. jagsnoles904 says:
    Jun 25, 2013 10:22 AM

    They already have a developmental league, it’s called the SEC.


  7. I think that a developmental league is a great idea! However, it would need full backing, and follow the same rules as the NFL to actually ready these players for The League. Also, they should look into starting all the new rules in the “d-league” and then gradually move them over to the nfl; instead of suffocating all the defensive veterans that have been playing the game their whole lives.

  8. Rules that should be followed when making a new football league:

    1. Have the same field size and basic rules of play that the NFL has. Play outdoors.

    2. Do not compete against the NFL.

    3. Play during the summer when people start to miss football. It’s also the time of year when most shows are re-runs. So the TV schedule is NOT as competitive.

    4. Play games Monday thru Thursday. Nobody will waste a nice weather weekend day to watch a football game, especially one that isn’t the NFL.

    5. Play the games starting around 8, so that people aren’t wasting valuable summer weather.

    Other things that might help:

    1. Allow defenders more contact then the NFL does.

    2. Teach officials to call blatant fouls that clearly have an impact on plays. Don’t be anal and call every possible almost infraction.

    3. Have one penalty for safety reasons. It’s called, unnecessary roughness. If a player uses excessive and unneeded force on a play then call him for it. Don’t call ticky tack calls for blows to the head when a defender grazes his hand across the helmet. It’s usually pretty easy to know when a blow to the head is intentional or excessive and when it is accidental and minor.

    4. Make it a developmental league and allow the players to go to the NFL.

  9. The NCAA is not a development league. More than half of this years draftees won’t be playing in 5 years (told to rookies at this years rookie symposium.) So half hose players football careers would just be…over. With a development league, they have somewhere to go. They can’t go back to the NCAA

  10. I also think the fact that the average career span for an NFL player is around 5 years so toiling in the minor league system for a few years doesn’t bode well. its more wear and tear on the body. you already hear “scouts” make comments like “he has a lot of wear and tear on him coming out of college”. i don’t think the NFL needs a dedicated development league, the NCAA is doing a fine job supplying ready and able bodies.

  11. Speak for yourself Sampson……a minor league to develop some of these guys that otherwise would get lost an NFL roster would be great. Have them play during the offseason

  12. If you want to know why there is no true developmental league that players could go to directly out of high school instead of fraudulently pretending to be college students for 3 years, follow the money.

    What happens to the TV contracts of the SEC and the BIG 10 and the PAC 12 or whatever they call themselves now if everyone knows the top players aren’t playing there?

    Does anyone even know or care that the College World Series is being played right now?

    And why should the NFL lay out millions to fund a developmental league? The current structure is rigged to ensure the most money for the colleges and the most money for the NFL.

    And that’s why it will never change.

  13. I will boycott the nfl if the other league can hit and rbs can charge and players can celebrate tds….basically everything the nfl had before goodell

  14. Hopefully this league pans out. Eight teams is plenty of room for these quarterbacks who play great c0llege ball and scouts think there under sized or poor arm strength. Great venue to showcase players that got looked over.

  15. USFL want to rustle a few feathers have one team in Orlando but have most of there games played in London.

  16. I have heard from reliable sources that this will in fact be the semi-pro developmental league for the entire NFL. I have also heard that the following franchises will be moved out of the NFL and down to the USFL so that they will actually have a chance to win something. Here are the teams that will be moving.
    1. Baltimorgue
    2. Washington
    3. NY Jets
    4. Jackson vile

  17. Why don’t the NFL just make its own minor league. It could be for others who doesn’t make it pro but have that chance to still play for the major teams minor league. Just like the NBA & MLB.

  18. I’m sorry, but I for one am 100% against the NFL having it’s own minor league. The NFL is the most brutal and physically demanding league of all the four major sports. If you’re forcing these pro athletes to play MORE football instead of letting their bodies recover during the offseason, you’re in for MORE injuries and I for one don’t want to see that. Also, the NFL REQUIRES (and won’t budge) from their three years removed from High School before playing at the pro level rule. Of all the other leagues, only basketball requires a minimum of a one year gap between pro and high school. In other words, the college ranks ARE their minor leagues.

    With that said, I do hope the NFL expands it’s rosters to 58 or 60 men rather than 53, and maybe expands the practice squad to 8 or 10 rather than 5. That’d give players an opportunity to develop and grow, while also being paid a lot more than any minor league could pay them.

  19. The only shocking thing in this article is that Arena Football is still around. Didn’t they fold in like 2009 or 2010? I used to love those games when they were on TV. 63-55 final scores FTW.

  20. The NFL really should have a D-League because young guys who aren’t and weren’t ready can get some reps without hurting team success and when you look at draft busts most are 24 25 by the time they are released instead you could simply send them down to a D-league, call me crazy but I think it would be a great idea and could supplement the NFL when its in and out of season

  21. It will never work for one reason. Today’s football players just don’t care, they don’t have the professional mindset that players had in the 80’s. The only reason the Arena League is still around is because it’s a different game and it’s indoors. Something to do when it’s 100 degrees outside. And having USFL teams in cities that don’t have teams is even less entertaining. I’m sorry, but nobody cares about pro football teams in towns like Omaha, Fargo, Salt Lake City, Boise, Cleveland….

  22. what a shame. I liked The UFL, It was not that bad and it’s fun to watch guys like Duante Culpepper, Josh McKown and others still get a chance to play. If it could of somehow made it work they could of got Tebow this year and I think that would of spiked the popularity. Then maybe UFL could of got a guy like JaMarcus Russell. People want to see these type of players. Yeah it’s a side show but it’s still fun to watch. Right now would be a perfect time for another league with all these new horrible NFL rules if a league started with the NFL rules of the 90s, a more hard hitting league it would work. You need money though, You need to be able to snag some big time names away from the NFL with college and veterans. First year you can go out with a Jamarcus Russell and a Tebow then build from there to getting better and better players. I could win this battle if I only had the money, I have the idea just not the cash

  23. This would be a great idea if there weren’t already too many NFL teams, which has caused the league to be watered down, talent-wise.
    The past two Super Bowl winners have had 9-7 and 10-6 records. Those records are on the cusp of mediocrity.
    Take my favorite team, the Steelers, as another example: They’ve won 20 of 32 games the past two seasons but have had to only beat six teams with winnings records to do so. Six winning teams out of 32 games is ridiculous.
    Before there’s a minor league system, there needs to be fewer NFL teams. There are already too many players in the NFL who don’t belong at that level.

  24. canjura says:
    Jun 25, 2013 12:39 PM
    I’m sorry, but I for one am 100% against the NFL having it’s own minor league. The NFL is the most brutal and physically demanding league of all the four major sports. If you’re forcing these pro athletes to play MORE football instead of letting their bodies recover during the offseason, you’re in for MORE injuries and I for one don’t want to see that.

    I don’t think you understand what most people who support a developmental league want.

    It wouldn’t be MORE football. It would be for players to go to INSTEAD of playing college football or UNTIL they were ready for the NFL.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that players play a full NFL season and then play another season in a developmental league.

  25. To those saying that the NCAA is a development league, you’re only partly right. Where you’re incorrect is that there is a time limit for their playing time. When they’re done, the players are entering their physical and athletic prime. Not every player can make a roster and cirmustances would benefit them if they could keep playing and show off their abililities.

    Once they’re done in the NCAA, they’re done. Not every player is college material either. That’s why an NFL-funded minor league is necessary. They could have a shortened schedule so as to not beat up the players too much.

  26. …………..okay….great…..if their time in the NCAA is up….then they go to the CFL…….if they make it there then they usually get at least an invite to the NFL……

    personally I have no interest in forking out $$ for second rate football when I’d rather just watch college and the pros.

  27. Wasn’t Donald Trump involved in the original USFL?

    There was a NY City team that played out on Wards Island or Randall Island near Rikers Island, the city jail.

  28. Would love to see people who have no desire to be in school just go to a minor league team rather than pretending to be a student in the SEC

  29. I could not disagree with wiley16350 any more on several of his points.

    1) outdoor games are nice, but this is far too much of an assumption that it would be optimal anywhere. We are talking spring football. You have to look at the weather patterns of your host city at that time of year. Are fans going to turn out for a cold wet game starring a brand new team? The Oklahoma Outlaws had driving rain at like their first 6 games in Tulsa. In some markets wet cold weather could really discourage a fan base from trying out a new product.

    2) If you don’t compete against the NFL for at least some key players, fans will not care. See ennui of the public about the XFL & UFL.

    3) I kind of agree that summer play makes some sense.

    4) It is likely a horrible idea to play most games M-thursday. College conferences like the WAC, MAC, and Sunbelt have tried this for more TV exposure only to find that it kills their attendance. Fans are generally trained to watch footabll games on weekends. A startup league cannot sacrifice it’s gate.

    5) Again playing the majority of games that late (8 pm) at night would probably have diminishing returns. TV networks would likely want more than just night games and while night games in some areas make sense at the gate, in some areas afternoon games would draw more.

    while I think your ideas on calling penalties are worth thinking about, history suggests that trying to build a developmental league is a recipe for failure, while competing with the NFL (AFL, WFL, USFL) is almost a 50-50 proposition. Remember the USFL had an offer on the table from the NFL to admit at least a couple of USFL teams “eventually” if the USFL owners called off the lawsuit.

    sampsonswag01 had it right. Fans are not demanding minor league football. Newlydead explains the nuts and bolts of why the idea lacks appeal quite well.

    Lack of fan interest in a minor league is a huge part of why the UFL failed.

    NFL owners lost a ton of money running the WLAF/NFLE for what they ultimately deemed to be minimal benefit.

    I disagree with FinFan68 when he says, ” Once Donald Trump’s ego convinced the others to challenge the NFL, the USFL was doomed.” The original USFL was always about challenging the NFL and they were doing a credible job of it before Einhorn and Trump convinced the owners to walk away from spring ball. For example the USFL from year one signed big name players out of college ahead of the NFL. They signed NFL vets away from teams like the steelers. How is that not challenging the NFL?

    GO FOR TWO SPORTS rightly points out that if the UFL had pursued “name guys” on the fringe of the NFL like Russell and Tebow (or for that matter guys like Colt McCoy, Colt Brennan, Pat white, Dennis Dixon, and Matt Barkley) they would have had a product that could have pulled more college fans. While signing guys like Jeff Garcia and Dante Culpepper were solid PR moves, not fighting to keep J.P. Losman looks like a big mistake.

  30. I also disagree with Florio’s view of the UFL.

    “The UFL (which abruptly disappeared during its 2012 season) felt doomed for the start, with big talk, small budgets, and a stubborn reluctance to fill the much-needed niche for a true minor league.”

    They were not that stubborn. The refusal to look at themselves as a developmental league was only the case in the lead-up to their first season, when the league was talking about $20 Million team rosters.

    That was out the door by time they opened play. Their commissioner and key owners openly pined about being a farm league for the NFL for the rest of the UFL’s existence. The NFL largely chose to just ignore the UFL though, just like the fans did.

    IMO chosing “not to compete” is one of the factors that killed the UFL.

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