Just got back from a United Football League press conference at AT&T Park in which the league formally introduced the head coaches of its initial four franchises: Dennis Green - San Francisco, Jim Fassel - Las Vegas, Jim Haslett - Orlando, Ted Cottrell - New York.
The most interesting thing I took away - and what ultimately may distinguish this football league from failed predecessors - is that it isn't trying to take on the NFL but rather compliment it. When NFL Europe folded last year, the NFL lost a valuable tool for developing players. The UFL seeks to fill that niche. The idea, as explained by Commissioner Michael Huyghue, is to work with the NFL to help develop and showcase future Kurt Warners and David Patten's. "I think the robust feeling that 'we're going to take the NFL on' is a foolish ploy," Huyghue said.
Each of the four teams will have an affiliation with NFL divisions. The SF franchise, for example, will get first dibs on players cut by teams in the NFC and AFC West. Orlando will have the same relationship with the NFC and AFC South, New York with the East divisions and Las Vegas with the North. The UFL will experiment with gadgets - GPS devices inside footballs, cameras to document halftime speeches - but the rules won't stray far from NFL rules. In fact, the UFL might use NFL officials for its games. Huyghue said that once the UFL season is over on Thanksgiving, players from that league will be free to sign with any NFL team. The UFL believes its value will come from developing quarterbacks. "Where do you go right now if you're a third quarterback?" Huyghue said. "How do you get that opportunity?"
Other tidbits from the presser:
- Huyghue said the plan is for the SF franchise to play two home games at AT&T Park and one at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. The details of the Sacramento game are still being worked out, however. Huyghue also said the SF franchise ultimately could wind up in Sacramento depending on attendance/interest in the two cities. "I don't want to say that we're playing the two cities against each other, but time will tell how the markets do," he said.
- That being said, the UFL thinks that the 49ers' flirtation with Santa Clara will create a vacuum in San Francisco. Said Paul Pelosi, the owner of the San Francisco franchise: "The Niners have made it clear that they want to be in San Jose, elsewhere. ... So we might end up -- will probably end up -- being the only team up here." Note: Jed York recently has rekindled what has been a frosty relationship with SF City Hall. Candlestick and Hunter's Point are on the table as possible stadium sites ...
- Huyghue certainly didn't rule out welcoming players like Michael Vick who have run afoul of the law and the NFL. But would doing so fray the relationship the UFL is trying to build with the NFL? "I think we would have to wait first to see if it would be ok with the NFL," Huyghue said.
- Any aspiring Vince Papale's out there? The league will hold public tryouts this year for potential pros who may have slipped through the cracks. Start stretching those hammies, you weekend warriors.
- The league plans to either expand to six or eight teams next season. If it's six, there will be six home games; if it's eight there will be seven home games. Hartford and L.A. appear to be the leading candidates for expansion. The New York team will play a game in Hartford and the Las Vegas team will play a game in L.A. this year. Teams will take 60 players to training camp and cut 10.
- As far as team names, the league is leaving that up to the public. Fans can vote online here. Sacramento Sea Lions. Wow, kinda has an awesome ring to it, huh? I also like Sacramento Steelhead ....
As far as the 49ers and free agency, CB Karl Paymah is in the building today. Note to the audio operator at Candlestick Park. If the 49ers sign this guy, the Andre 3000 song, "Hey ya!," would be appropriate whenever he makes a play. Paaaay-maaaah!
-- Matt Barrows