|The old USFL had names like Flutie, Kelly and Young. The new USFL will be a 'triple-A spring football league.' (US PRESSWIRE)|
The original United States Football League (USFL) lasted just three seasons, from 1983-1985, and included such notable players as Herschel Walker, Reggie White, Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly, Mike Rozier and Steve Young. Now, a quarter-century later, it's back.
And this time, instead of competing directly with the NFL, the plan is to have the USFL serve as a minor league for players hoping to graduate to the big time. This is the vision of Jaime Cuadra, who has acquired the USFL brand and will serve as president and CEO of what he hopes will be an eight-team league set to begin play next spring in non-NFL cities. Cuadra has hired as a consultant Jim Steeg, the former San Diego Chargers COO, who, for 34 years, also served as the NFL's man in charge of Super Bowls and special events.
"I like the idea a lot," Steeg told the San Diego Union-Tribune's Nick Canepa. "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."
Cuadra understands that trying to take on the NFL is a fool's errand.
"The USFL and UFL did the same thing -- they weren't fiscally responsible," Cuadra said. "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.
"We're going to play in the spring when fans are dying for football. We're going to take players who didn't quite make it to the NFL and develop them -- we're talking anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 kids and giving them a living wage, $3,000-to-$3,500 per game, and give them unfettered access to the NFL. They will be paid by the league, to keep things under control."
And unlike previous professional football leagues, the new USFL will have an open-door policy with the NFL.
"The NFL can come to practices; if they want one of our players, we aren't going to stop them," Cuadra said.
As Canepa points out, there's still a lot to do. Like finding owners and venues. The early list includes: Akron, Ohio, Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Texas, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge, La.
"I see this as a league that opens doors," Cuadra said. "I see this as a need. I'd give it 75-percent odds that it will fly. I've had other businesses where I was told they weren't going to work. I've had some of that now; I've also had a lot of people tell me it's a good idea."
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