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Another new professional football league

Posted by Doug on May 31, 2007

Last summer I bunged down some thoughts (here and here) on the All-American Football League, an exciting new league which will begin play in April of 2007.

Hey, wait a minute.

I guess that didn't quite happen, but their website is still alive and well, and is now advertising an April 2008 start.

Well now it's got some potential competition. These two articles indicate that a group of investors, including "well-known investment banker Bill Hambrecht and Google Inc. executive Tim Armstrong" as well as Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, is planning on starting up a new league --- the United Football League --- which will begin play in August of 2008. They'll move into non-NFL markets like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc. and start with an eight-team league.

So that wraps up the factual part of the post. Now I'll start spouting off about things that I have no real idea about...

While the AAFL appears content to be a minor league with a niche, as arena football has been for a couple of decades now, it doesn't take much imagination to envision google and Cuban aiming higher. Given the relative popularity of the three major US sports and the salaries of the people who play them, it just seems obvious that NFL football players are generating more revenue than they are being paid. And that doesn't even count all the guys who are generating revenue for nothing in college. I can only assume that the investors are thinking, all we have to do is pay them what they're worth and they'll come play for us because it'll be a huge pay raise. It will obviously take patience, and they'll have to absorb some heavy losses for at least a few years (as the linked article indicates), but I'm sure they're prepared to do that. I think this has a chance.

I don't know what they're planning, but here's how I'd do it:

1. The obvious first move is to start poaching college players before they are eligible for the NFL draft. Rather than opening the floodgates, I'd institute a 2-years-out-of-high-school rule. In this way, they can get their hands on players who are already known to the public. Darren McFadden, Brian Brohm, and Steve Slaton would get you some attention. Yes, in the beginning you'd be used as a one-year minor league stopover by the top college sophomores. That's OK. Eventually, as the league gets stronger, some of them will decide to stick around.

2. Try to sign every player who is ticked off about having been tagged with the franchise designation.

3. Pay high-profile non-first-round NFL draft picks more money than the NFL will. This is apparently part of the UFL's strategy.

4. Run your season from October through February. Play on Friday nights (which the league apparently is planning on doing) during the main part of the season, but open it up during the holidays, sneak into Saturdays after college football ends, and even sneak into Sundays once the NFL playoffs go into no-games-before-4:00 mode (one of my personal pet peeves).