Can the UFL Thrive as a Testing Ground for the NFL?: Five Points in Its Favor
As football fans out there know, there is an upstart football league about to begin its inaugural season this fall. The UFL will play their games on Friday nights, broadcast them on Versus, and provide no real competition to the NFL in any way, which is most definitely a good thing.
The UFL will feature four teams in the cities of New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. It will provide marginal players with a sort of developmental league for the NFL. The league will also give players a second chance at reviving their once promising careers.
The UFL recently came out with their rule book, which could raise some eyebrows around the media world. Overall, the rule changes aren’t revolutionary, but that could be the main point.
If the UFL wants to remain successful, the league would be wise to remain close enough to the actual NFL that it is able to gain some crossover viewers and fans. Without really changing the game in any significant manner, the UFL has tweaked some of the "No Fun League"'s most unpopular and scrutinized rules.
Among the most significant of rule changes are:
1. UFL head coaches and QBs will be wired for sound, with the QBs on a tape-delayed basis for editing and possible play-calling.
With former NFL head coach Dennis Green moving over to the UFL, the league might be wise to have the coaches on a tape delay as well.
2. The ridiculous "Tuck Rule" will be done away with.
Unfortunately, referee Walt Coleman will still get to keep his job. A quote from an article in the Pro Football Examiner titled “UFL gets rid of ridiculous tuck rule” reads as the following:
"January 19, 2002. The Raiders seemingly beat the Patriots in a snowy playoff game in New England. Tom Brady fumbled the ball and Greg Biekert recovered it and Oakland was going to run out the clock. Then the world was introduced to the tuck rule.
After a lengthy review that at the time didn’t seem to make any sense, referee Walt Coleman reversed the call that Brady had fumbled. When he announced his decision on the field, Coleman didn’t mention the tuck rule, instead saying that Brady’s arm was 'going forward.' However, for all intensive purposes, the tuck rule was invoked and the matchup is now known as the 'tuck rule game.'
Even I have gotten over the rule and the call, but I think everyone can now admit that the rule is downright ridiculous. Maybe the league is trying to win over some still bitter Oakland Raider fans with the decision."
3. The UFL will allow cameras into the locker room at halftime for the opening four minutes. As mentioned before, the coaches will be mic'd and communication between the coach and quarterback will be broadcast on tape delay.
This promises greater accessibility for fans. With the UFL wisely gearing itself more toward the fans—something the now-struggling Arena Football League had great success with—the league, as a result, will have an easier time gaining media recognition. The fans create the game, and their perception of a sport—as well as a league—plays the biggest role in how the media will portray the UFL.
4. The quarterback can legally ground the football if inside or outside the pocket area while under duress. This rule is a change on the current grounding rule in the NFL, with a major emphasis kept on the quarterback's safety.
UFL San Francisco Head Coach Dennis Green had the following to say on the grounding rule change:
"The change to the 'grounding rule' comes under the umbrella of 'Player Safety.' The change was made in an effort to protect the quarterback, who is defenseless when he is in the throwing position, from injury. By allowing the quarterback to dump the football if he is under duress, it lessens the number of times that he might possibly be hit by the defense.
An overall summary of the game "enhancements" that have been approved per an official UFL press release:
- The deletion of the “Tuck” rule which makes a loose ball a fumble if the passer loses possession of the ball as he is putting it away after completion of the forward pass motion.
- A fumble into and out of the end zone returns the ball to the spot of the fumble when not recovered in the end zone – making it consistent with other fumble rules.
- The Quarterback can legally ground the football if inside or outside the pocket area while under duress.
- Tasteful individual and/or group celebrations are permitted ONLY in end zone and bench area.
- Instant Replay rulings will be made by the Replay Official in the Replay Booth rather than the on-field referee. Review time will be 90 seconds rather than 60 seconds.
- During overtime/sudden-death, both teams will have an opportunity to possess the football during the allotted 15 minutes. Sudden-death rules apply after both teams have had an opportunity to possess the football.
- Approved television cameras will be allowed in the locker rooms for the first four minutes of halftime.
- Head Coaches will be wired for sound for television broadcasts (no sideline discussions will be aired). Cameras and microphones in the bench area will be allowed during the game to capture real-time emotional moments.
- TV audience will hear coach to quarterback communications on tape-delayed basis.
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