Jan 6, 2020
We kick off the new year with a return to the gridiron, and a revealing behind-the-scenes look at the brash, but ultimately ill-fated United Football League of 2009-12 – with its only commissioner, Michael Huyghue (Behind the Line of Scrimmage: Inside the Front Office of the NFL).
Formed in 2007 out of big-budget dreams to establish a national top-tier, Fall-season minor league pro football circuit by high-wattage investors like San Francisco investment banker Bill Hambrecht, Google executive Tim Armstrong and Dallas Mavericks owner/firebrand Mark Cuban (who later backed out, along with initially-rumored financier T. Boone Pickens) – the UFL was also conveniently timed to capitalize on fallout from any potential labor/owner strife prior to the 2011-12 NFL season, when the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players expired. The bet backfired when a correctly-anticipated owner lockout of players quickly ended in July of 2011, ensuring no regular season disruption or drama.
Over the course of its history, five teams played in the league: the Las Vegas Locomotives, Hartford Colonials (originally the New York Sentinels), Omaha Nighthawks, Sacramento Mountain Lions (née California Redwoods), and Virginia Destroyers (successors to the Florida Tuskers). The Locomotives were historically the best of the franchises, winning two of the UFL’s three championship games, and possessing an undefeated regular season record when the league suspended operations (ultimately for good) in mid-Fall 2012. Big-name NFL coaches like Jim Haslett, Jay Gruden, Dennis Green, Marty Schottenheimer, and Jim Fassel were featured attractions, as were recognizable pro talent like Simeon Rice, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, and Jeff Garcia – to name just a few.
Huyghue walks host Tim Hanlon through the numerous ups, frequent downs and multiple sideways’ of the UFL’s brief lifespan, including: how early-career front office experiences in the NFL (Lions, Jaguars), WLAF (Birmingham Fire), and NFL Players’ Association uniquely prepared him to the UFL commissioner’s role; league ownership’s original intention to play as a Spring league; the allure of then-untapped pro markets like Omaha, Las Vegas Sacramento; and lessons learned that could have helped last year’s AAF and this year’s soon-to-launch XFL.
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