The USFL: Professional Football in the Spring

Spring Football: Doomed From the Start?


Patrick Moore, Staff Writer

While flipping through the channels last Friday, I noticed something unexpected and unique: a new Professional Football League. Interested, I quickly looked up what the USFL is and watched a couple of minutes of the New Jersey Generals (once a team owned by Donald Trump in the old USFL) defeat the Michigan Panthers by an uneventful score of 10-6 in Birmingham, Alabama. After the snoozefest of a game, I wondered if other fans would tune in. With little interest and low-scoring games around the USFL, it begs the question: Why do Spring Football Leagues – such as the USFL – Fail?

It all starts with money. Running a professional football team is a malor investment. Paying the salaries of players, coaches, managers, and stadium workers, quickly add up. Adding in stadium, transportation, and marketing outlays makes professional football an expensive business. While the USFL utilized Birmingham, Alabama as a “hub city” for the games to be played, fans will not have the same close association with the team that they would if they were geographically connected. In turn, the USFL yearns for wealthy individuals and investors to sink cash into the league and fix any financial issues. However there are two significant problems: Little Interest and Paltry Revenue. 

Fans are not invested in the USFL. While American Sports Fans love the NFL, as it is the most-watched sport in the United States, and even College Football, Spring Football is a step too far. Fans initially enjoy and watch the USFL as a good “minor league” product for the NFL but they soon lose interest when the USFL competes with other major sporting events. The USFL has to compete with major springtime events such as the Masters, NBA, and NHL Playoffs, the start of the MLB season. With the weather being warmer, fans are also more likely to spend time outside their homes and actually be able to play sports instead of watching them. Because of other activities, poor television ratings result. These poor ratings create poor television deals, which will not allow the USFL to receive a large payout from media corporations including CBS and FOX. This is evident by the current poor numbers, as the USFL had only 336,000 people tune into Week 2 New Jersey Generals versus Michigan Panthers game.  For comparison, the New York Giants had over 7.9 million fans watching in their 2021 Week 4 game against the Washington Football Team on a Thursday night. The reality is that very few people care about the USFL compared to the NFL.

While an interesting idea, the USFL – like the AFL, XFL, and the old USFL that came before it – the ultimate outcome will be failure. Because of the financial costs associated with professional football, the USFL will have a difficult time finding potential investors for the league. With poor ratings, investors will see little value in spring football, thus causing the league to fail.