You might remember the USFL as a football league that played from 1983 to 1987 in the spring, tried to switch to an autumn/winter schedule, competed directly with the NFL and, most notably, filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, won, and after tripling due to the anti-trust laws, was awarded three dollars and seventy-six cents (after the NFL's appeal, plus attorney's fees and court costs).
The USFL might be making a comeback, however, as a San Diego entrepreneur has acquired the brand and hopes to start up as an eight-team league in non-NFL (or MLB) cities. And he's enlisted Jim Steeg, consultant and former Chargers COO who's served the NFL for 34 years as the coordinator of Super Bowls and other events.
But Jaime Cuadra's goal isn't direct competition with the NFL - at least, not yet.
"I like the idea a lot," Steeg says. "I haven't talked to anyone who thinks the idea sucks. If you truly believe a triple-A spring football league has merit, this is the way to go. It's not meant to compete with the NFL. It will give players the opportunity to develop. There are 3,000 football players and only 1,800 roster spots in the NFL. Particularly with the NFL's new CBA, I think this kind of thing has a different place."
"The USFL and UFL did the same thing - they weren't fiscally responsible," Cuadra says. "The XFL went totally gimmicky. It's not going to work with purists. NFL Europe was a great idea, but costly. We can see the mistakes that have been made and try to avoid them.
Give the guys credit, they paid attention in history class. The plan, as they've so far stated, is to play in the spring with players that didn't quite make it to the NFL, develop them, have them paid by the NFL, and have the NFL take players as they need. A system similar in some ways to baseball's minor leagues.
Obviously, there are some differences between the two sports, most notably the shorter careers and greater levels of violence inherent in football. And in football, a drafted player can come in immediately, where in baseball, a high draft pick might still develop in the minors for four or five years before even stepping foot on a major league field.
As far as where to put the teams...
"We're staying away from NFL cities and avoiding major league baseball cities," he says. "We're looking at cities with high college concentrations with little or no NFL exposure. It can be done not nearly as expensively as some other leagues that started up. There are ways to do this. We don't have to go to the NFL with our hand out.
What do you guys think - is there room in the NFL to have a designed level of football between the NCAA and the NFL as a developmental system?