Thirty-seven years later, the USFL is ready to return.
The failed football league of the 1980s, which met its death in the form of an antitrust lawsuit spearheaded by then-New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump, is back in 2022 under new ownership. The group owns the trademarks, though there are no other legal connections between the new and old entities.
The new USFL, an eight-team league being run by Brian Woods under the ownership of Fox Sports, is attempting to deploy an old premise: a spring football league that can capitalize on the country’s raucous appetite for football.
“I think that the previous two attempts at spring football have shown that there’s an appetite for it,” executive vice president of football operations Daryl Johnston told The Post. “The ratings that both the Alliance and the XFL have generated have shown that there’s an interest with the fan base to have more football during the course of the calendar year.”
It’s the fourth such entity to try in recent years after the AAF and XFL failed and The Spring League — also run by Woods — disbanded tterson, though the 35-round draft was broken out by position in each round, and the league’s biggest names are of a similar stature.
Still, it is football, and it kicks off this weekend. The eight-team league is being held entirely in Birmingham, Ala., though its teams have geographical designations (including the New Jersey Generals, the franchise once owned by Donald Trump), with broadcasts across Fox and NBC properties.
“The quality of the product on the field has to be the driving force,” Johnston said. “And I think all the leagues, including ours, I think you’ll see that this weekend, that there is a very good quality of football that can be played in these leagues. That’s the most important thing.”
The opener, which features the Generals and the Birmingham Stallions, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and will be simulcast on Fox and NBC. According to the league, it’s the first game to be televised on competing broadcast networks since Super Bowl I.
Much of the league’s draw will come in gimmicky rules and an innovative broadcast style it hopes will be successful.
The two biggest rule changes are the opportunity to go for three points after a touchdown, via a conversion attempt from the 10-yard line, and an onside-kick alternative in which teams can take a fourth-and-12 from the 33-yard line after scoring. Additionally, the clock will stop after a first down in the last two minutes of the second and fourth quarters in an attempt to create more scoring opportunities.
Overtime will be a best-of-three format in which each team gets the ball at the opposing 2-yard line. If still tied after that, the game will go to sudden death.
As a broadcast product, the league is attempting to give fans as much access as possible. A huddle camera that should let fans hear quarterbacks communicating with the team, and microphones on the shoulder pad of almost every player will give the broadcast a level of access it hopes will help draw fans in.
“I think all three leagues have been very innovative and tend to push the envelope a bit when it comes to these situations,” Johnston said. “And I think you’re gonna see the USFL take that to a whole new level.”