If you had said to me three years ago that a new professional lootball league would start up and play games during the fall, when the NFL and college football (not to mention high school football) were in full swing, I would have suggested some sort of substance-abuse recovery program.
Two years ago, if you were one of the co-founders of this joint venture and you would have polled veteran sports media types, whether traditional print or electronic/new media, someone might have said, "It might work for a year or two, but it will go the way of the USFL and XFL."
Six Months ago, I might have said to you, "If the economy were different..."
With many in the business world saying that the worst of the financial downturn could be over before the end of the coming holiday season, it just might be the perfect time to launch a new pro football league.
So today, myself and a small, but experienced group of football journalists, along with several executives involved with the UFL came together for their first New York-based press conference at the Cornell Club in Midtown Manhattan. Commissioner Michael Huyghue opened the media meet and greet with about six or so minutes of information commentary, after which he turned it over to the New York franchise's head coach, Ted Cottrell.
Don't let Cotrell's calm, business-like demeanor fool you. This man is excited to finally have a shot as a head coach, something it looked like he would never get in the NFL, even with 24 years of experience as a position coach and defensive coordinator.
To say that he got a raw deal in his last two stops (with San Deigo & the N.Y. Jets) would be an understatement. He warmed up the crowd almost instantly with "Only in New York would a head coach get a round of applause before he's coached a game."
He stated that he was truly honored to be in this position.
"If you ask me what kind of team we will have in New York, it will be the kind of team that gives you it's all on the field today.
"I expect to see players playing hard from start to finish. That's what I expect"
Later he told a smaller group of media, "We are trying to watch the age of the veteran players we bring in, with the concern that players get worn down"
On Being in N.Y.: "Aside from this being the team I was assigned, I love it here. I was here for three years with the Jets, and as an assistant with Rutgers for nine years, plus I worked in the NFL offices for a year."
On Being a 3-4 defensive guru and innovator: "Well, this year we will run the 4-3, based on the fact that we want to change things up a bit."
On his assistants: "I had to find a group of guys I could trust, guys i knew well. With the exception of one coach, everyone on this staff has worked with me before."
On His Offensive coordinator: "Wes Chandler" ( that's good enough for me!)
Chandler played 11 seasons in the NFL and was a big part in the 1981 "Epic in Miami" playoff game (6-106-1TD on a 56-yard punt return). His Coaching career includes stops in NFL Europe, in the NFL with Dallas, and most recently with Cleveland.
We also heard from the N.Y. franchise Owner Bill Mayer, the founder of Park Avenue Equity. Probably the most interesting thing Mayer let drop is that he was a former N.Y. Jets season ticket holder, and that after a few years of traveling to New Jersey for games, he was just plain fed up.
"This team will play somewhere east of the east river," he said. Hmmmm...do the math. The new facility at Citi Field would be perfect, but it's playing surface is just not set up for football. That leaves...hmmm...that college in Hempstead, N.Y., where the Jets used to hold their training camp and practices. We think Hofstra would be a great place, but we will have to wait for a formal announcement.
Final Notes: Every good sports endeavor needs a good P.R. person, and the UFL has a very good one in Rachel Gary. She was fantastic today, and so far in every contact this reporter has had with her. It was also my pleasure to meet and report today with fellow examiner Andy Kossak, who is the National Pro Football examiner.