The United States Football League (USFL) is returning to try the “spring football” experiment one more time. The league is set to kickoff in 2022, with Fox Sports serving as its official partner, as evidenced by a tweet the latter put out earlier today:
The video shows former USFL QB Doug Flutie waxing poetic about his time with the league, where he and other football legends like Reggie White, Steve Young, and Jim Kelly started their professional careers before moving to the NFL. It’s unknown what official role Flutie has with the operation, if any, but calls the league an “alternative” to the NFL.
The original USFL was founded in 1982 as a springtime football league not designed to directly compete with the NFL, though it wasn’t exactly designed to develop NFL talent, either. It was designed to exist as its own entity, with its own stars. While the league’s early years were successful enough, luring talented young players like White, Flutie, Young, Kelly, and others away from the NFL with big-money contracts, the league deteriorated over the following years before shuttering in 1986, mostly due to an executive decision to move to a fall schedule and directly compete with the NFL, something even the most novice football fan would understand is a fool’s errand.
What did stick was the league’s founding idea of just how important media rights were to a league’s success. The original USFL aired on ABC and ESPN, complete with lucrative deals that were ahead of the times. Granted, the $13 million dollars ABC paid in 1983 pales in comparison to the multi-billion dollar deals the NFL made this past year.
The new USFL marks the third separate league to attempt spring football in the last two years. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) was the first spring league to attempt to play a full schedule but didn’t even finish their inaugural season before filing for bankruptcy in 2019. The revived XFL tried to play a full season last year, but was halted five weeks in due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his longtime business partner Dany Garcia purchased the XFL and hopes to restart the league for a 2022 season.
Can the USFL learn from the mistakes of the predecessors and actually form a successful spring football league? Here’s hoping, because more football is good for everyone.