USFL hopes to rebuild as developmental league

Louis San Miguel

Reggie White, Jim Kelly and Steve Young all had storied Hall of Fame careers in the NFL. The 25 Pro Bowls, 15 All-Pro selections and 4 Super Bowl victories between the three are more than enough to prove that point. However, few remember that from 1984 to 1985 they played for a different football league altogether.

The United States Football League, originally founded in 1983 and then went out of business in 1987 after losing millions of dollars, is poised for a comeback in March of next year. Rather than directly competing against the NFL directly, the modern USFL is planning to shape itself as a developmental league.

“We will not try to compete with the NFL at all,” league CEO Jaime Cuadra told AP. “We will play in markets where there are no NFL teams or major league baseball teams. It’s a league for guys who are on the bubble for making NFL teams, and we will have complete open access for the NFL. We want to build a model that is sustainable.”

Players that the league is targeting are far from the marquee signings of Heisman winners Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie, who announced the arrival of the original United States Football League. They’re planning to target younger players on the fringe of NFL rosters.

In line with this, the 14-game league season will run from March to June, during the NFL offseason, so its players can then attend NFL training camps in hopes of signing with a team as free agents.

The support for a United States Football League in Austin has been overwhelming so far.

Heisman winner and UT alumnus Ricky Williams and Houston Astros vice president John Sorrentino both have shown their support for the league. Even Drew Brees, starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, called in to try to land a team in Austin.

“The Austin/San Antonio area is of serious interest to us,” league board chairman Jim Steeg said. “Passionate fans, great access to colleges — I mean UT is right there. We have meetings scheduled in a group of markets, but Austin is one of major interest where we’ll have a few. That’s what this is about.”

Longhorns like Fozzy Whittaker, Michael Huey and John Chiles could all benefit from the league’s plan. After struggling to assert themselves in the NFL and missing the roster cut that sees the training camp roster of 90 men cut down to 53 with an eight-player practice squad, the trio could use a second chance to impress scouts and make a jump to the NFL.

Players wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from the league. A new breed of aspiring coaches, trainers and scouts could also use the league as a jumping-off point to get to the NFL.

The league hopes to begin its inaugural season with eight teams. The cities being considered for franchises are Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio or Austin, Texas; Columbus or Akron, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Memphis, Tenn.