There’s strength in numbers, but bad planning can weaken anything. When the XFL and USFL officially announced their merger as the UFL in December, it was to expand pro football in a country that’s obsessed over the game.
“As we come together to create the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting, and very cool for football fans — a spring league with lasting impact for all the players with a dream to play pro football and the ‘hardest workers in the room’ mentality to make their dreams come true,” said Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — a league partner — at the time of the merger.
But the decision to announce the schedule for the upcoming 2024 season during the one week when the world is obsessed over NFL football, wasn’t a smart one.
“The UFL will now have exceptional platforms through which fans can experience spring football. We are equally excited to welcome new and returning fans back into our buildings this season so they can immerse themselves in the energy around spring football,” UFL president/CEO Russ Brandon said in a statement. “Our players are here to perform and to reach the next level, and our fans are going to be treated to an excellent on-field product and in-stadium experience.”
On Super Bowl Monday — the same day Roger Goodell held his annual, and always controversial, press conference — the UFL announced its 43-game schedule, as champions from the former leagues — Arlington Renegades (XFL) and Birmingham Stallions (USFL) — will play in the season opener on March 30th.
The teams who make up the league are the Birmingham Stallions (Protective Stadium), Arlington Renegades (Choctaw Stadium), Houston Roughnecks (Rice Stadium), D.C. Defenders (Audi Field), Memphis Showboats (Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium), San Antonio Brahmas (The Alamodome), Michigan Panthers (Ford Field), and the St. Louis Battlehawks (The Dome at America’s Center.)
According to a report from ESPN, “every UFL game will be televised on either ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 or FS1. ABC/ESPN games will be streamed on ESPN+, and Fox games will be streamed on the Fox Sports app. Nearly three-quarters of the games will air on either ABC or Fox.”
One of the best things that the XFL had going for it before the merger was that it set itself apart by having diversity among its head coaches. In its first season back (2023), the XFL put the NFL to shame by having half the league led by Black head coaches. The list included Hines Ward, Terrell Buckley, Reggie Barlow, and Rod Woodson.
Last season, the USFL and XFL were battling for ratings as each league was trying to capture the million-viewer mark multiple times. The merger is an attempt to grow and expand the game. But if that’s the dream, then trying to drum up attention during the week in which people are only fixated on the Super Bowl feels more like a nightmare.
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