Pro Football Leagues Riot Bill Teen Crime Victims Down in, First, there was the XFL in 2001, then the United Football League in 2009, and now the new revival of the USFL will be holding its player draft this weekend in Birmingham. The USFL was founded in 1982 and ran for 10 seasons before shutting down in 1986. However, it did manage to leave its mark on football history, including giving us quarterbacks like Doug Flutie, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and others who went on to succeed in the NFL as starters or backup quarterbacks.
National Football League
The latest development is that fans of football may not have to wait until 2016 to see pro football again. The United States Football League — which, as I understand it, has spent most of its time since being driven out of business by various NFL legal actions playing minor league football and operating as a minor league itself — is holding its draft in Birmingham today and tomorrow.
About 300 fans showed up for last night’s first-round; per USFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, several hundred more are expected for tomorrow’s action. This year marks USFL’s return to pro ball after spending years based on rules meant for semi-pro play.
Team rosters include players who’ve been cut by NFL teams or who left college early but didn’t find a home at the next level (along with others who aren’t yet eligible). Of course, there are questions about where USFL might be able to play down here after 2014 and whether or not anybody will pay attention to any given game. The point remains: This season is happening. It’s good news for Birmingham.
And if you like pro football, you should come down and watch some games. Just don’t expect an NFL experience…or an NFL product. The USFL doesn’t want to compete against its former league, so it isn’t bringing pro football back. Instead, think semi-pro played under pro rules. Think San Antonio meeting Baltimore when it comes to production value. Think high school band marching onto the field instead of a recording of Purple Rain.
New league on the block
The USFL is holding its first player draft of its new incarnation today and tomorrow. By sometime next month, officials say, they’ll have two teams ready to compete for fans here in Alabama, with at least one other team in place by next season. It’s expected that Birmingham will also be home to a new pro football league: The All-American Football League plans to start play here as early as 2010.
Robert Smith will manage and play quarterback for that team. Smith has said he thinks his experience playing for Nick Saban at Alabama has given him an edge over some others who are seeking ownership positions in pro leagues here. While Smith says he isn’t making any promises about championships or anything, he does think pro football could make a go of it here.
If you look back 10 years ago, you were wondering whether pro basketball would ever really take off in Birmingham. Well, obviously [the Birmingham] Thunderbolts showed up about five years ago and now we’ve got some pretty good crowds down there every week on Friday nights during high school basketball playoffs. I just see no reason why pro football can’t do that here as well.
The USFL is back. Sort of. But only sort of. Sure, there are some new names—the New York Franchise, for instance—and there’s a new team from Los Angeles (called Hollywood), but it’s still very much like that other league of 30 years ago that played its games in mostly empty stadiums and was dominated by players who had been thrown out of other pro football leagues for drug abuse or unexcused absences.
That league failed because most people just weren’t interested in pro football except when they could see their favorite players with their favorite teams. That makes sense to me. And because of that, I can’t imagine how those stars-of-yesterday-on-beer-league-teams will draw fans to today’s less sophisticated sports fans who want to watch guys they recognize from national commercials.
What do you think? Will you be watching? Do you expect pro football to ever really succeed again in Alabama? Or do you suspect pro ball will never stick around here since our region likes college ball better than we do professional play?
Do tell. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the pro ball in ‘Bama – and what would have to happen for pro leagues to be successful here again. Feel free to call us at 251-722-5999 between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday if you won’t talk about pro football in general or any aspect of it in particular.
The league will hold its first player draft of its new incarnation today and tomorrow. The league, which is based in Alabama but plays most of its games on the West Coast, has several former pro football stars with Alabama ties on its roster. It’s currently playing it spring season in Birmingham. USFL Commissioner Steve Ehrhart says he hopes to bring a team here for next season, but it depends on what happens with efforts to build an arena downtown as well as securing sponsorships from local businesses.
The American Professional Football League (APFL) sued NFL owners for monopolizing pro football with their 1960 merger. Along with NFL Properties — now called NFL Ventures –, they obtained a patent-infringement judgment against them that was upheld by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel last year in San Francisco.
If NFL teams were found to be infringing patents held by other companies, those other companies could ask a court to shut down NFL business until licenses were purchased. However, there are no ongoing investigations into any such matter involving pro football at any level.
Tom Dundon, who is buying an ownership stake in Pro Football Alabama, also owns part of a team that will play its first season next year as part of what used to be called The United States Football League. That league played here from 1983-85 under former owner Billy Parker and drew record crowds at Legion Field.
But financial problems led to its demise. The people of Birmingham are very familiar with American football, said Paul Kelly, commissioner of Pro Football Alabama. And they were avid fans then and they’re avid fans now. They made for good customers back then and we know that they’ll make for good customers now.
How much of an impact do you think PFA will have on college football recruiting? I think it could potentially be enormous because when these players come out of high school, it doesn’t matter if they get drafted by an NFL or USFL or XFL team; their objective is to get signed by an NFL team.
They all want to go pro in some way shape or form. So whether they sign with us instead of signing with them (NFL teams) or getting drafted by them, either way, they get closer to that goal. In your press release, you say there was an overwhelming response when Pro Football Alabama was announced last fall. What kind of response did you receive?