The United Football League, which includes the Sacramento Mountain Lions, announced today that it has suspended the 2012 season with four games remaining amid mounting financial woes.
The UFL's plan is to return in the spring to conclude the final four games of the current schedule and then return to a fall schedule in 2013. The UFL has franchises in Sacramento, Las Vegas, Omaha and Virginia Beach. The league, without a revenue-making television contract and with high workers' compensation costs, has endured financial troubles since it debuted three years ago.
Many players across the league this fall were not paid despite repeated promises by league owners that their contracts would be honored. Delayed payments was a common theme last season, though players were eventually paid.
Keith Lewis, a Valley High School of Sacramento star in the 1990s and a linebacker with the Las Vegas Locos, found out from The Bee that the UFL had halted its season. Las Vegas at 4-0 was considered the league's best team.
"You're the first knowledge of this, and thank goodness for my resources because now I'm trying to figure out a game plan to get back to Sacramento and how to get paid," Lewis said. "I haven't heard from anyone from our front office or our league. Players are telling each other about the news now. "We haven't been paid at all. We got all these guarantees and they were all false promises. You could definitely see this in the making, that the league was in trouble, and it's too bad. We hear that the league will try to start again in the spring, but how's that going to work?"
The UFL insists it can work and that it will pay its athletes.
The players and coaches have established a terrific product on the field, Paul Pelosi, spokesman for the UFL ownership group, said in a statement. Pelosi is the owner of the Mountain Lions and the husband of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Because of a lack of sufficient funds due to the high cost of workmens compensation insurance and other elements, we are postponing the second half of the season. We plan to play the balance of the season in the spring, along with the championship game.
He added in the statement, "It is our first priority to take care of our players, coaches, and staff, and then to raise sufficient funds to take care of our other obligations and to resume fully financed operations in 2013."
The UFL has experienced stops and starts the last two seasons. The 2011 schedule was pushed back a month, and then the season was truncated a month early.
This season's opening night schedule was pushed back a month. Crowds as small as 601 attended games in Las Vegas. Sacramento home crowds at Raley Field were also sparse as fans struggled to relate to players they did not know. Midweek games also discouraged fans accustomed to weekend football.
The league's star power was in the coaches, including ex-NFL coach Jim Fassel with Las Vegas. Dennis Green coached Sacramento last year and Marty Schottenheimer was with Virginia. Both ex-NFL coaches are suing the UFL for back payments.
The Mountain Lions finished 1-3 after earning their first victory of the season Friday against defending UFL champion Virginia in Virginia Beach, Va. Sacramento had several players leave the team earlier this season in protest of non-payment. Some received $1,000 instead of the contracted $3,500.