The USFL-Here We Go Again

Betty Tichich/Houston Chronicle

The USFL-Here We Go Again

Football

The USFL-Here We Go Again

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Betty Tichich/Houston Chronicle

Americans seemingly spend entire weekends on their sofas during football season. Even if you have not personally experienced this, you probably know somebody who has fallen victim to football fandom. The passion for football is stronger than ever, leading to the booming success of the National Football League. As the NFL grows more popular each and every day, it’s natural for one to wonder if the NFL’s success could be replicated.

 In reality, many have tried to compete with the NFL, but they have all failed for a variety of reasons. The most well-known attempt to compete with the NFL was the launch of the USFL in 1983. The league featured stars Reggie White, Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Jim Kelly and others but ultimately failed after only three seasons of play. The USFL was later followed by the XFL and AAF who both struggled financially and never reached expectations. 

An uninspiring history was not enough to discourage the USFL from making another comeback. Recently the USFL announced plans to revive the league with play beginning in the spring of 2022. The league’s eight franchises, the Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, and Tampa Bay Bandits, were announced on Monday’s episode of The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FS1. The league will be split up into two divisions with Michigan, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh competing in the North division and Birmingham, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa Bay competing in the South division. 

So, why go down this road again? 

It’s easier said than done, but there is a path to success for the USFL. In the 1980s, the USFL was seen as a competitor to the NFL. This revamped version of the USFL will no longer be a competitor, but rather an enhancement to the NFL. The season will be played in the spring and will likely feature players trying to make the NFL instead of pulling stars from the NFL. Competition will not be an issue like it was decades ago due to the NFL’s popularity that has made it the most popular sports league in the country by a wide margin. Instead of competing with the USFL, the NFL can use the USFL to scout more players, train more referees, and develop more executives among other ways to better its own product. Not to mention, if the USFL makes football more popular than it already is, the NFL will be the ultimate winner. 

Aside from potentially working with the NFL instead of against it, the biggest help to the USFL will be the fans’ love of football. Americans and now many others across the globe love watching football. The data backs up this claim. For example, the 2021 NBA Playoffs averaged 4.25 million viewers, compared to an average of over 16 million viewers on NFL regular season games, according to NBA.com and The Los Angeles Times. When compared to the NFL, spring football may seem small, but when compared to other sports, you can see why FOX was willing to invest in the USFL. To put it in perspective, the AAF, a professional spring football league of 2019, averaged more than 2.9 million viewers in its first two games according to CBS. That number is not far off from where it needs to be in order to succeed. After all, many believe the AAF failed because of the coronavirus pandemic, not because of its product. That theory will be put to test when the USFL’s clubs hit the gridiron this upcoming spring. 

It’s unknown whether or not the USFL will succeed, but football fans should be rooting for its success. A successful spring football league would ignite what is normally a very dull spring sports season aside from March Madness. The USFL would give opportunities to many players, coaches and others looking to revitalize their careers while providing a new way for fans to enjoy the game. That business model and idea has always been a good one, however, it’s up to fans to decide if it’s something they want to commit to. In the end, if you love football, how could you be opposed to more football? The USFL is betting that fans cannot get enough of the sport they love and they may finally be right.

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