The United Football League suspended its fourth season this weekend, although it still has plans to finish the 2012 season in the spring. Some have said that the season has been canceled, and some have been trigger-happy enough to claim that the UFL was folding. Anyone who has been following the United Football League for a while, however, knows the league is resilient, often in spite of itself.
Few are surprised at this latest development. The UFL was ostensibly playing without a core executive branch this season, with the teams themselves basically operating the league. Over the years, various people have sued the UFL for lack of payment, and as the NFL was locked out in 2011, the UFL delayed their season by a month, while cutting down from five teams to four. The 2011 UFL season was then truncated, with the last games of the season (a month early) becoming the de facto championship and consolation games. The UFL was not televised last season, after two years on Versus and HDNet (now NBC Sports Network and AXS.Tv, respectively), and the league had to pay the CBS Sports Network just to broadcast this season. Crowds as low as 601 people have been to UFL games this season.
While former NFL stars such as Jeff Garcia, Dominic Rhodes and Daunte Culpepper have played in the UFL, the league’s credibility has rested on its head coaches, many of whom have had success in the NFL. Jim Fassel won the UFL’s first two championships with the Las Vegas Locos, but is more famous for leading the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV. Jerry Glanville was going to bring the run and shoot offense back to professional football, but the Hartford Colonials suspended operations before he had a chance to coach them. And both Dennis Green and Marty Schottenheimer were extremely close to getting to the Super Bowl before coaching the Sacramento Mountain Lions and Virginia Destroyers, respectively, and both are now suing to get back pay from the UFL.
To say that the UFL has been a complete bust, however, is not true. Many former UFL players, including New York Jets cornerback Isaiah Trufant and Indianapolis Colts long snapper Matt Overton, are succeeding in the NFL. Former Omaha Nighthawks head coach Joe Moglia is now at Coastal Carolina University, while 2010 Orlando Tuskers head coach Jay Gruden is currently the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator. And those who have watched the UFL have seen some exciting football, especially in their championship games.
The United Football League has been counted out before, and have continued in whatever capacity they could muster. One of these days the UFL will finally give up the ghost, but don’t be so sure that today is the day.