Debut of minor pro football league gets the ball rolling


A minor football league the (USFL) has made an appearance again giving football fans something to watch after the NFL season is over.

Emma Makin and Dara Fisher

The National Football League (NFL) season came to a close on Jan. 9, 2022, and the United States Football League (USFL) made their debut not long afterwards on April 16, 2022.

The USFL is the new ‘minor league’ for professional football, or a group of professional football teams that help prepare the players for the NFL. Football fans now have the chance to root for a whole new set of teams.

This league had a short existence in the 1980s that produced many famous NFL players, and will continue to be a path for football players as long as they obtain the fans and support necessary to keep them going.

There are eight teams in the USFL, split into two divisions: north and south. Each of those teams have a 10 game schedule, playing the teams in their division twice and teams in the other division once. After the 10 games, the top two teams in the north and south division will play each other and the winner of each division will go on to the championship game.

The northern division teams in the USFL are made up of the Michigan Panthers, the New Jersey Generals, the Philadelphia Stars and the Pittsburgh Maulers. In the southern division, the teams are the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers and Tampa Bay Bandits.

The eight teams held a USFL draft from Feb. 22 to 23 and the teams’ training camps started about a month later on March 21. The USFL team rosters are a 38-man active roster. In addition, each team has a seven-man practice squad as well. The draft contained a pool of 500 players that teams could choose, full of players that were overlooked by NFL teams or starred in other defunct, fledgling leagues, such as the Xtra-Fun-League (XFL) and Alliance of American Football (AAF).

The USFL regular season goes from April to June, followed by the playoffs and championships. There was much excitement for the inaugural game on April 16, which featured the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions playing in Birmingham, Alabama. The game aired on both Fox and NBC, becoming the first sporting event to air on the competing broadcast networks since 1967’s broadcast of the first Super Bowl.

“The first game played in any new league is itself historical, and having the USFL’s inaugural game simulcast by NBC and FOX makes it even more so,” said FOX Sports CEO and Executive Producer Eric Shanks.

All eight teams will play in Birmingham, Alabama at Protective Stadium and Legion Field for the regular season games.

“Birmingham is one of America’s most dynamic and welcoming cities with world-class facilities highlighted by the state-of-the-art Protective Stadium, now home to the USFL,” said the USFL Executive Vice President of business operations, Edward Hartman.

Furthermore, the playoff games and the championship game for the league will be played in Canton, Ohio at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

To lead the league are USFL Co-Founder and President Brian Woods and Executive Vice President of football operations Daryl Johnston.

“We are extremely fortunate to have this extraordinary team of experienced executives to guide the new USFL’s development,” Shanks said.

As far as rules go for the USFL, there will be multiple changes to the standard NFL rules. For instance, after a team scores a touchdown, the team will have the option to go for one, two or three points. A one point try will be from the 15-yard line, a two point try will take place from the 2-yard line and the three point try will take place from the 10-yard line.

Furthermore, there is an onside kick alternative. If a team wants to maintain possession, they can try to convert a fourth and twelve play from the 33-yard line and if they get the 12 yards they will keep the ball.

Clock stoppage rules have also changed. The clock will stop following a first down during the last two minutes of the second and fourth quarters. According to the league’s executives, this adds to the excitement before halftime and at the end of the game.

The overtime shootout rules are different as well. The USFL overtime rules are a best-of-three scoring game where each team’s offense will get the ball at the opponent’s 2-yard line. If the two teams are still tied after three attempts, the overtime will go to sudden death – where the game ends on any type of score.

Mike Pereira is the head of officiating, who has the final say with all rulings on the field.

As an avid viewer of the NFL games, sophomore Kiera Young of Neptune is excited about the new league.

“The rule changes will definitely make the league more interesting,” said Young.

The USFL also partnered with Strategic Education Inc., a corporation which is offering their players and staff a tuition-free, debt-free college program. The partnership will allow players to continue to go to college so they can achieve their academic goals as well athletic ones.

Despite general excitement for the league’s inception, the process has not been without its challenges. According to the XFL News Hubm, the USFL have dealt with financial challenges and are also worried about the number of viewers they will have. Without enough fans, the USFL will not succeed, so it is imperative that people are aware of the games and will support their teams.

To take these challenges further, their premiering date also caused conflicts revolving around the number of viewers, being the day before Easter and in the midst of the opening days of the Major League Baseball games.

The USFL is overall the perfect opportunity for football enthusiasts to continue to watch football for the other half of the year.