|William Hambrecht, 2012-present|
|Michael Huyghue, 2009–2012|
|Number of teams: 6|
|Virginia Destroyers (2011)|
|Las Vegas Locomotives, 2 (2009, 2010)|
|Comcast SportsNet California, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Veetle TV (internet streaming)|
The United Football League (UFL) is an independent professional American football league that began play in October 2009. The league currently has five franchises playing in markets where the NFL has no current presence. The league's defending champions are the Las Vegas Locomotives.
The league primarily consists of players that have at one time or another played for a National Football League team. While the league has no connection with the NFL, and does not intend to have such a relationship in the future, some have speculated that it could become a minor or "developmental" league for the NFL. Other reports described the league as a "competitor" to the NFL. Some press articles have speculated that the UFL's long-term business plan was to be present if (and, as it turned out, when) the NFL and its players' union reached the end of their collective bargaining agreement in March 2011, that would have possibly gave players that would be locked-out or striking an opportunity to play somewhere else; said lockout was resolved in July 2011, which negated any benefits the UFL attempted to reap from the labor dispute. During the NFL owner imposed lockout, the NFLPA advised any NFL player cut in training camp to consider the UFL as an employment opportunity.
- 1 History
- 2 Teams
- 3 Rules
- 4 The William Hambrecht Trophy
- 5 League personnel
- 6 Game scheduling
- 7 Financial structure
- 8 Television and media
- 9 Training facilities
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes/References
Development and first season (2007–2009)
The UFL initially had plans to start with eight teams playing in targeted sites in the fall of 2008. T. Boone Pickens and Mark Cuban had originally committed to the league as owners, but both backed out prior to the start of the 2009 season. On February 9, 2009, it was announced that Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, had stepped forward heading a group of investors who invested $30 million to purchase four franchises to play in the league's 2009 inaugural season.
The league had identified approximately 21 cities with strong economic bases, passionate football tradition, and a high number of average TV viewing households as potential team locations. Target markets included: Austin; Birmingham; Columbus; Hartford; Las Vegas; London, England; Los Angeles; Louisville; Memphis; Mexico City; Milwaukee; Monterrey, Mexico; New York City; Oklahoma City; Orlando; Portland; Raleigh-Durham; Sacramento; Salt Lake City; San Antonio; and San Jose.
The markets chosen for the premiere season were New York City (Sentinels), Las Vegas (Locomotives), Orlando (Florida Tuskers), and the San Francisco Bay Area (California Redwoods). One of the Redwoods' games was moved to San Jose; the other two were played in San Francisco. The league was unable to secure a fiscally reasonable deal for a stadium within New York City, forcing the league to have the Sentinels play one home game each in Hartford, Long Island, and New Jersey. In addition, one of the Tuskers' games was played in St. Petersburg, Florida, due in part to the fact that the Tuskers shared ownership that year with the Tampa Bay Rays; this was not reprised in 2010.
The Florida Tuskers finished 2009 with a 6–0 record. The Las Vegas Locomotives were next at 4–2; the California Redwoods were 2–4, and the Sentinels were last at 0-6. The Locomotives played the Tuskers in the 2009 UFL Championship Game; the Locomotives won the title on a field goal in overtime. The truncated 2009 season was described by the league's commissioner as "a soft launch," similar to the one used by the Arena Football League in its inaugural season in 1987.
|United Football League Progression|
- See Also: 2010 UFL season.
Before the 2010 season, the New York Sentinels relocated to Hartford, Connecticut, becoming the Hartford Colonials. The new name of the team was chosen by fans through an online vote. The California Redwoods relocated to Sacramento, California, and chose the name Mountain Lions, also from a fan vote.
For 2010, the league indicated that five markets were under consideration for expansion teams: Omaha, Nebraska; San Antonio or Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Salt Lake City, Utah. On April 15, 2010, Omaha was granted an expansion team, called the Omaha Nighthawks.
Mark Cuban, who had originally been mentioned as a potential franchise owner in the league's formative stages, purchased a share of the entire league in April 2010. He will not own an individual franchise and will not be involved in day-to-day operations of the league or any of its teams.
The league suffered a setback when they had to fold the Florida Tuskers in January 2011. The league moved most of the Tuskers' staff to the Destroyers and reassigned the coaching staff already in Virginia to Omaha, firing the previous Omaha coaching staff. After this, the league reduced their goal to six teams, with Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City and new contender Chattanooga, Tennessee still in consideration, and Los Angeles no longer in consideration for the third consecutive year. If a sixth team had been added, the schedule for each team would have expanded to ten games.
The schedule for the 2011 UFL season, released June 9, 2011, confirmed that the league would be locked at five teams for the season, with no expansion. The 2011 season was to shift from a traditional late fall schedule to a late summer/early fall schedule beginning in August 2011 and ending in October; however, in July 2011, the UFL announced it would delay the start of its season until mid-September due to financial issues. The league was in negotiations with CBS and TNT for coverage, but was unable to get any, and the league also lost its existing television partners. After this postponement, the league confirmed it was considering even further contraction, with the Hartford Colonials potentially on the chopping block. On August 10, 2011, the UFL announced that it would "suspend operations" of the Colonials and go forth with a four-team league.
Jerry Glanville, a UFL consultant, began a listening tour of Chattanooga, Salt Lake City and Jackson, Mississippi in October 2011 to gauge support for UFL expansion franchises. He has stated that of the three, at least "one has a UFL team and one may get a UFL team."
On October 16, 2011, immediately after each team's fourth game, numerous reports indicated that the remainder of the 2011 season had been canceled and that the 2011 UFL Championship Game between Las Vegas and Virginia would be moved up to the date of Virginia's last home game, which would have taken place against Omaha on October 21.
2012 and beyond
Though the league is looking into a Spring Season in 2012, they are still looking into expansion with Salt Lake being rumoured heavily. Some have suggested the Hartford Colonials will return after a one year absence. As of March 2012, the preparations for a spring season (or any future season, for that matter) have not materialized. Omaha's staff is almost completely empty, with both head coach Joe Moglia (along with the majority of his assistants) and general manager Rick Mueller defecting to positions in college football and the NFL, respectively, with no visible efforts to replace them. Commissioner Michael Huyghue resigned from his position on January 31, 2012, citing the league's severe financial problems.
|Team||Metropolitan area||Home stadium||Debut||Head coach||General manager||Primary owner|
|Florida Tuskers||Orlando, Florida||Citrus Bowl||2009||Jay Gruden||Joe Theismann|
|Hartford Colonials||Hartford, Connecticut||Rentschler Field||2009||Chris Palmer||Bill Mayer & Northland AEG|
|Las Vegas Locomotives||Las Vegas, Nevada||Sam Boyd Stadium||2009||Jim Fassel||Bill Hambrecht & Rob Ryan|
|Omaha Nighthawks||Omaha, Nebraska||TD Ameritrade Park||2010||Jeff Jagodzinski||Rick Mueller||Zach Nelson|
|Sacramento Mountain Lions||Sacramento, California||Hornet Stadium||2009||Dennis Green||Paul Pelosi|
- New teams
|Team||Metropolitan area||Home stadium||Debut||Head coach||General manager||Primary owner|
|Virginia Destroyers||Hampton Roads, Virginia||Virginia Beach Sportsplex||2011||Joe Moglia||Doug Williams||League-owned|
In an approach similar to previous football leagues, the UFL mostly adheres to standard NFL and football rules with a few differences of note:
- No Tuck Rule - In the NFL, if a passer brings his arm forward in a passing motion and then loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body, it is considered a forward pass (and thus an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground). This "tuck rule" is one of the most controversial rules in the NFL; in the UFL, however, it is called a fumble.
- Blitzing/Rushing - On each play, the defense must use 4 down linemen who must be in a 3- or 4-point stance at the snap. No more than 6 defenders can blitz. Penalty for violating this rule is illegal defense (signaled as unsportsmanlike conduct), with a 15-yard penalty and a first down. This rule is meant to both protect the quarterback and encourage more scoring.
- Intentional grounding - A quarterback is allowed to intentionally ground the ball to avoid a sack, provided he gets the throw back to the line of scrimmage. He does not have to be outside the pocket to do so.
- Fumbling out of the end zones - If the ball is fumbled forward into and out of the end zone, it is placed back at the spot of the fumble.
- Instant replay - All reviews are viewed upstairs by the replay official, who has 90 seconds to make a ruling.
- Touchdown celebrations - Player celebrations (individual or group) are permitted only in the end zones or the bench areas.
- Overtime - Instead of the sudden death overtime approach used by the NFL in its regular season, the UFL's overtime rules ensure that both teams get at least one possession. Therefore, if one team scores on the opening drive of OT, the opposing team has the chance to equal that score, or surpass it if the first team's first drive resulted in anything less than a touchdown and 2-point conversion. If both teams remain tied after each has had one possession, overtime then reverts to sudden death. If the score remains tied after 15 minutes, the game ends in a tie. The first application of the OT rules occurred during the first UFL championship game in 2009 when Las Vegas won on a field goal after the first possession by Florida ended in an interception.
The William Hambrecht Trophy
The trophy given annually to the UFL champions is The William Hambrecht Trophy, named after the Las Vegas Locos owner and UFL founder. When the trophy was first awarded in 2009 (fittingly to Hambrecht and the Locos), the "Hambrecht" resembled similar qualities to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It featured the star from the UFL logo with a streak coming off of one of the corners down onto the base. This design was scrapped after year one. For the 2010 season, the "Hambrecht" went under serious reconsideration for the design. Once ultimately decided, the "Hambrecht" now featured two bases in the shape of the UFL logo connected by four columns with a UFL football on a kicking tee placed on the top base. The new design received positive feedback from the players and coaches who competed for the original prize in the 2009 season, as many considered it a new beginning from a luke-warm inaugural season.
- Officials - The UFL's roster of on-field officials includes two women, head linesman Terri Valenti (who joined the league in 2009) and line judge Sarah Thomas (2010). The officials wore unique attire during the 2009 inaugural season--red polo shirts with black numbering, lettering, and piping, along with black pants and caps that are the same as in the NFL (white cap for the referee, black for the other officials); the combination set them apart from not only their NFL and college brethren but from the teams on the field, none of whom sported red jerseys in 2009. The officials changed to traditional black-and-white-striped uniforms starting in 2010.
- Chain crew and markers - Instead of bright orange, the chain crews' equipment (including vests, yardage "sticks", down markers, and endzone pylons) are lime green, one of the UFL's signature colors.
The UFL schedules its games on non-traditional evenings for pro football: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. Though these games may conflict with high school and college football events in some locations, the UFL's scheduling plan is different from that of the National Football League, which is prohibited under federal anti-trust exemption law (15 U.S.C. § 1291) from broadcasting any professional game within seventy-five miles of any inter-collegiate or high school game on any Friday or Saturday, beginning with the second Friday in September and ending the second Saturday in December (15 U.S.C. § 1293).
The UFL's pay structure includes a player salary cap range of $12–20 million per team with a staff salary cap of $3 million per team. They hope to be paying at least 10 players on each roster in excess of $1 million. In the initial truncated six-week season, the four teams reportedly had total of $16 million in labor costs, reflecting the shorter season.
In 2009, actual salaries seemed to be lower than advertised, however. An agent representing two players with NFL experience, Jack Bechta, reported his clients were offered UFL contracts at a base salary of $35,000. He confirmed with other agents that $35,000 was the league mandated salary for skill players and $25,000 for punters, place kickers and long snappers, at least for the 2009 inaugural season. One of the players represented by the agent was a quarterback who received an offer of $35,000, although he stated that his negotiations revealed that teams are allowed to pay one quarterback more than the $35,000 salary. Bonuses were limited to $10,000 per player. In addition to the base salary, the league also pays for all housing expenses for its players. In another similarity to the XFL, teams can offer a sizable performance bonus; former Locomotives starting quarterback J. P. Losman has stated that he received a "nice sized" bonus for winning the 2009 UFL Championship Game. In 2010, players will earn $50,000 with a bonus of $10,000 if on the losing team of the Championship Game and $20,000 if on the winning team. Starting quarterbacks earn a $200,000 salary. With most players earning $6,250 per game, this is roughly on par with the average per-game salaries in the Canadian Football League and, adjusted for inflation, the XFL.
Each player is under contract to the UFL through February of the following year, effectively creating a two-month non-compete clause after the season ends, and any NFL team that wishes to sign a UFL player must pay a transfer fee of US$150,000 to the league. This fee was waived after the 2009 season but will be more strictly enforced for 2010.
Each team is unofficially tied to a pair of divisions in the National Football League. The Florida Tuskers, for instance, are allowed first rights to players who last played in the NFL for a team in the NFC South or AFC South. In addition to this feature, the league held a draft on June 18, 2009, the UFL Premiere Season Draft. A second draft was held on June 2, 2010.
Owners pay $30 million to buy a half interest in a team. The league itself owns the other half. This is done to help control the unregulated spending on player salaries that doomed the previous leagues. The UFL plans for each team to eventually sell shares to the public that they hope could raise another $60 million.
Television and media
For the first two seasons, all league games except for two were carried nationally by either Versus cable television network or Mark Cuban's HDNet. The only exceptions were two games involving the Hartford Colonials, games that Versus originally held rights to, that were given to New England Sports Network in 2010. In 2009, Versus carried eight games (including the championship), mostly on Thursday nights, while HDNet carried the remaining five. All games are available in high definition. Versus' new play-by-play team for 2010 consists of former XFL announcer Craig Minervini on play-by-play, Doug Flutie as color analyst, ex-NFL linebacker Ryan Nece on the sidelines and Damon Hack of Sports Illustrated included. HDNet has Kenny Rice as play-by-play commentator, Paul Maguire as color commentator, and Ron Kruck and Paul Crane on the sidelines. The New England Sports Network has Mike Logan for one game and Brett Haber for the other game, with Scott Zolak providing color commentary and John Chandler and Tony Terzi on the sidelines. All of the games are webcast for those fans who don't have either of the stations. The Versus and HDNet deals expire December 31, 2010; negotiations begin for an extension December 1.
As of 2010, all five UFL teams have signed agreements with local radio stations to carry play-by-play, a marked contrast from 2009, when no games were carried on radio. The Hartford Colonials will broadcast on WPOP and will broadcast two games locally on NESN that don't air on HDNet or Versus. The Florida Tuskers will broadcast on WYGM. The Locos will broadcast on KWWN (or KBAD when conflicts arise). KHTK carries Mountain Lions games, while KOZN is the radio home of the Nighthawks.
During 2009, the UFL used two sites for the teams' training camps and regular season practices, with California and Las Vegas using a $20 million facility constructed by the City of Casa Grande, Arizona, and Florida and New York practicing at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando after failing to come to terms with Vero Beach, Florida on the use of that city's former Dodgertown facility. Beginning in 2010, the league's teams will train and practice in facilities in their own home markets.
- 2010 UFL Draft
- 2010 UFL season
- UFL Championship Game
- List of current UFL team rosters
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