The United Football League just played their 2011 Championship game in Virginia. As we look forward to the future of the UFL, the question is if there will even be a league next season? After the remainder of the 2011 season was canceled, many fans now wonder about the future of the UFL.
So what exactly is wrong with the UFL and what can be done to save it?
While Huyghue has been unable to move the league forward, a change in commissioner is not the answer.
Michael Huyghue has been at the helm of the UFL since its premiere season. While many have claimed that he has the full confidence of the majority league owner as well as many of the team owners, you have to wonder how they feel behind closed doors.
Canceling the remainder of the 2011 season must have those affiliated with the league feeling on edge. Some owners have expressed their belief that cancelling the rest of the season was a good thing. I would have to believe they were being optimistic.
The argument that scraping the last few games was more of a cost cutting measure is understandable but still alarming. It's a sign of weakness.
The UFL has been on a back slide for the past seasons and game cancellations are just the beginning of the league's recent problems. Hartford suspended operations along with the folding of the league's third franchise in three years.
The commissioner has been outspoken about the UFL being a fall league. Well, playing in the fall is not working. At this point, it is hard to imagine Micheal Huyghue saying what really needs to be done. We're moving to the spring.
The United Football League has been clear about their intentions to stay a fall league. That being said, playing in the fall is not helping the league's cause.
Competing against the NFL, NCAA and high school football, the UFL isn't even on the radar. There are those who are head strong in the idea that football is a sport that should only be played in the fall and that the UFL would be mistaken to move the league. I simply disagree.
There is not much in the way of sports during the spring except for basketball and preseason baseball— which could not be more meaningless. Both of these sports are seeing declining interest and the UFL should use the popularity of football and stake their claim in the spring.
(I have an article strictly about the United Football League moving to the spring if you would like to dive deeper into the subject.)
The league should expand through already stabilized markets by bringing on teams that are already playing in the spring and summer: mostly indoor football teams.
There are eight indoor football leagues in the country totaling 75 teams! While some are regional, the Arena Football League and the Indoor Football League both have footprints that reach from coast to coast. The IFL even had a team in Alaska!
That being said, not every team in the big conferences are successful, but in some places spring and summer football thrives. The state of Texas alone has a new conference with half of its teams playing for eight years or more. The league has six teams with more expected to sign.
In fact a majority of the teams from all of the different leagues have teams that have played for almost a decade.
One thing the leagues all have in common is fluidity. Some teams may have played for nine years but in three different leagues.
If the revamped UFL had a national television contract of some sort along with at least the remaining four teams—and, hopefully, a returning Hartford—the league would have a tempting offer for any team playing indoors.
If they opened expansion offers to indoor teams with strong fan bases as well as teams from the same region that want to merge, there may be more than a few indoor teams that would take a hard look at that.
Michael Huyghue has described the UFL as a league of opportunity.
There was a time when I agreed with that statement. But the events of the 2010 postseason made me disagree with that description. Commissioner Huyghue touted several UFL players who might have a chance to move up to the NFL, but he conveniently left the price tag off.
The price tag is $150,000 for teams wanting to sign UFL talent.
After NFL teams cringed at price and seemed to be looking at other options, the UFL backed down eventually and lowered the price to an affordable $25,000! Some players could afford to pay the fee themselves and make the move; but how many were priced out of their chance by the league?
Why would a player bind themselves to the UFL right before the NFL regular season? After this seeing the league's attempts to profiteer for their player, who would risk it? Now, maybe at $25,000 the players could plan ahead in anticipation of making the move to the NFL, but there's no guarantee that the league won't jack up the transfer fee next year.
Especially when investors like Mark Cuban think it should be as much as $250,000!
Some say that getting on TV is an obvious thing that could help the league to succeed. But that statement is far to simplistic. Getting on television does not necessarily mean get every single game televised nationwide.
At a minimum, get a game of the week that can be seen nationwide through some kind of venue. This could be ESPN, Versus once again or perhaps an unconventional channel like an MTV 2 or the CW.
Having a game of the week gives you exposure and the ability to showcase the top of the league. A few networks might be tempted to give a prime time slot to the league when they look to fill the spring time slots.
There's a lot of money in football and TV execs know it.
The league should also use the technology available to them to broadcast through non conventional means. Devices like Apple TV and Roku allow high quality, real time video right on people's flat screens.
Not to mention many new televisions come with this of technology already built in.
The league would not have to reinvent the wheel to do this. The Arena Football League has been using Nifty TV for a few years now and provide every game live and on-demand (except for those broadcast on the NFL Network). While the AFL has not made the leap to the streaming devices like the Roku or Apple TV, the conversion is not difficult.
The UFL has the potential to give the American people an exciting season of high quality football every year. Let's hope the league gets a chance to prove it.
The future of the league may be uncertain—but not hopeless. There are things the UFL can do to make themselves a viable league in the future. The question is whether the league will be willing to make those changes.
There is some talk from league about considering a move to the spring, but it's doubtful they would start in the 2012 season. The league is also scouting future expansion locations in Jackson, MS, Salt Lake City, UT and Chattanooga, TN. With the current state of the league, one has to wonder how much traction expansion will get.
So fans will have to see what happens with the UFL during the offseason and hope they get to see the league kickoff in 2012.