The inaugural UFL season has come to a conclusion and judging by the attendance and television ratings numbers, you probably didn’t notice. For those of you who may have missed it/didn’t care one bit, the Las Vegas Locos beat the then undefeated Florida Tuskers 20-17 in overtime in the UFL Championship Game. The title game wasn’t the only good thing going for the UFL in its first season. Here are my thoughts on the good, the bad, the year that was the first ever UFL season.
UFL Year in Review: The Good
The game play, the most important aspect of any sports league, wasn’t nearly as bad as one might imagine, especially when you consider the fact that all four UFL teams had a small amount of time to build any team chemistry before the start of the UFL regular season. When you watched either Florida or Las Vegas, you saw a football team that could, at the very least, compete with Tampa Bay, Cleveland or St. Louis of the NFL. After about the second week of UFL action, the mistakes made by non-NFL caliber talent decreased and the football games even got competitive.
Another thing that impressed me was the production quality during UFL games. Most minor league organizations are known for lame graphics and horrible camera angles, neither of which were seen during UFL games on Versus. I was also very pleased with the work of commentators Dave Sims and Doug Flutie. As I said in my UFL debut article, these two put the UFL and its players over while remaining excited about the action they were calling throughout the entire season. I think Doug Flutie should do color commentary for more football games. Just sayin’.
UFL Year in Review: The Bad
Successful businesses make money. This is simple enough to understand. The UFL was, well, a very unsuccessful business in its first year in existence. According to the Sports Business Journal, the UFL lost $30 million in its first season. The story breaks down the money loss to about $2.3 million per UFL game.
The biggest reason for this money loss is the fact that nobody cared about the UFL. Seriously. If you watched one UFL regular season game on television, you saw rows upon rows of empty seats in the stadiums. No matter how hard the UFL camera operators tried to hide these, they were incredibly noticeable, especially during kickoffs and extra points/field goals.
Why didn’t anybody care, you ask? A horrible, horrible marketing strategy. I live a hop, skip and jump away from where the New York Sentinels played during the UFL season. Not a single football fan that I know in this town (I know a few) were even aware when the UFL season started. I saw a total of three television commercials for local UFL action, two of which happened while I was watching a UFL game. I never saw one advertisement run during any New York Giants or Jets game. Running an ad for a New York UFL game during a Giants-Cowboys game would have been brilliant; if it would have happened. Sorry, UFL, but a billboard on the ol’ 1-9 just won’t do it when you’re trying to promote a new football league. Rumor is that the UFL plans to expand from four to six teams for the 2010 UFL season. Before this can occur, the league must learn how to promote itself both locally and nationally.
UFL Year in Review: What Now?
For starters, the UFL must do a better job of scheduling games. Who thought it was a good idea to put the UFL championship on the same day as Alabama-Auburn, one of the fiercest rivalries in college football and a game with BCS implications? If anything, the football game should have been played on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when nothing too meaningful was occurring in the world of sports.
I agree that UFL/all football games should be played in the fall. My recommendation would be to start the UFL regular season in mid-August. This would allow the league to feature games on Wednesday and Thursday night, before any college or pro football games were taking place. Going up against the NFL on Thursday night was an incredibly stupid move by the UFL, one that should have cost somebody his or her job. Starting the season earlier would also keep UFL games from competing against more meaningful in-conference NCAA rivalries. The games should also be played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, not Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The UFL must also televise all games nationally. I’m actually fine with the league being on Versus even though not all satellite/cable companies carry the channel. HD Net, however, is unacceptable. There’s no reason why there can’t be UFL doubleheaders with both games on Versus. I’m sure the channel could preempt a rerun of bass fishing to show two games in one day.
UFL Year in Review: Conclusion
As a football fan, you got your money’s worth if you went to a UFL game and you didn’t waste your time if you watched games on television. Those who were realistic about the league were probably even slightly pleasantly surprised by the football games. The UFL will never be anything other than minor league football as long as the NFL exists. The league is still a fun alternative for whenever no NFL game is on TV.
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