By Barry Janoff. Executive Editor
November 26, 2010: Despite the fact that it is seen as a very poor relation to the very rich National Football League, the fledgling United Football League believes it can afford to use the NFL's current unresolved CBA situation to try to enrich its national image.
Looking ahead to what could be a collective bargaining agreement-related lockout/delay/shutdown of the 2011 NFL season, UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue said the league would open its next campaign on Aug. 5, would expand from an eight- to a ten-game season, would play games for the first time on the usually NFL-owned Sunday and would field six franchises, one more than in 2010.
The UFL is still in the process of wrapping up its second season, with its championship game scheduled for Nov. 27 between the defending champion Las Vegas Locomotives and the Florida Tuskers, which lost to Las Vegas in the 2009 title game. But the UFL has apparently seen enough of an uptick from its rookie year that it is planning to enact a bigger and better strategy.
“The intent is to begin play before the National Football League season begins, and to start incorporating Sundays into our football schedule,” Huyghue said during a media event in Omaha, where the league's title game will be played at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The Commissioner specifically targeted the NFL's potential expansion from 16 to 18 regular season games, which has been a major hurdle as the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. attempt to negotiate a new CBA. “As the NFL preseason kicks in, most of their games are on Friday and Saturday, but their games at that time don’t count, and our games do," said Huyghue. "There has been more and more talk about the dissatisfaction with the NFL’s preseason — the games don’t count and the stars typically don’t play.
According to Huyghue, "From a fan’s standpoint, you’re going to see a more competitive football game on Sundays during the NFL preseason in our games, than you would in the National Football League."
The UFL said its 2011 season would feature the Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials, Las Vegas Locos, Omaha Nighthawks, Sacramento Mountain Lions and expansion team Virginia Destroyers. The UFL also said it "continues to evaluate markets suitable to host seventh and eighth future expansion teams."
Each team will play ten games within a 12-week season, incorporating a bye week prior to the championship game in November.
Before any of that kicks in, the UFL said it would "create broadcast history" on Nov. 27 when the 2010 championship game is broadcast live on YouTube in high definition. The game also will be aired via UFL broadcast partner Versus.
“We regularly promise our fans that they will have an opportunity to engage with the UFL and play an active part in our league and this is another example of that interaction,” said Huyghue. “Broadcasting through YouTube also allows us to take our Championship Game and our product to an international audience.”
"You’re going to see a more competitive football game on Sundays during the NFL preseason in our games, than you would in the NFL."
As for 2011 and beyond, Huyghue was optimistic and realistic. “We’ve learned from this league that playing during the traditional football season is when fans are excited about watching good football. We think we can provide a superior entertainment value on Sundays, versus anything else that would be on during the NFL preseason.
“We understand that the NFL’s there. It will always be king of the hill. [But] we can carve our own niche as well. Sundays during the preseason, when the NFL typically doesn’t play is a perfect opportunity.”