Ex-FL & P-R-O-G-N-O-S-T-I-C-A-T-O-R

The Ex-FL?

Mark Cuban
Mark Cuban

We all thought Mark Cuban's next project might be the Chicago Cubs, silly us. It's a new pro football league to go up against the NFL with something called the United Football League. We don't know much other than what has been leaked in a press release by the New York Times, which has the story for its June 3 edition of PLAY, their sports magazine.

This is what we know. The league will be called the United Football League. Cuban will be one owner and he and Wall Street investor Bill Hambrect and Google executive Tim Armstrong are looking for seven more to start some pre-season games in August 2008. We know that there will be teams in non-NFL markets like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Mexico City, and that they'll play games on Friday night.

Each owner, according to the Times, will put up $30 million to own half the team, while the league will own the other half. The league hopes that fans will eventually own the other half as that half will be sold as shares with the goal of raising an average of $60 million per franchise.

Now let's focus on this a bit.

If the teams are originally valued at $60 million, that is clearly the highest set franchise fee for an upstart league in the history of sports.

Let's put this in perspective. The record franchise fee for a Major League Soccer team came in October at $33 million, Arena Football League teams sell for about $20 million each and National Lacrosse League teams are selling in the $5 million range.

The Ex-FL?

For a better comparison, look to the XFL. Both the WWE and NBC pledged $100 million for the first two years, but the league only lasted one. Both spent a combined $70 million, which I'll call the market cap. The market cap of the UFL league, assuming the $60 million per team is $480 million. Is that too high?

I emailed Cuban last night to try to understand how they set the value at $60 million per team and he told me "the league has to be able to survive" and that the $30 million provided by the owner "gives us a war chest to work from."

I also think they are trying to get a particular type of owner -- a single rich guy instead of 40 investors -- and that's one of the reasons why the barrier was set so high. There are plenty of people with $30 million out there. I'm just not sure there are plenty of people who want to fork over $30 million for a half of a team.

The other problem of course is that the NFL does have a competitor -- college football -- and I'm not sure that there's space for another (see World Football League, USFL, WLAF, XFL).

By the way, in case you have forgotten or, more likely, have never heard about it, there's another league that hopes to start up this fall, though I seriously doubt it will happen based on the progress on their Web site. It's the All-American Football League. It's basically a pro league in which college football graduates play in the cities where they went to school. And when I say college football graduates I mean you literally had to graduate to be eligible. That's where the league falls apart. A nice touch, yes. Reality, no.


I proved that I am the best Spelling Bee analyst in the nation yesterday as 227 kids got eliminated and my first eight seeds remained standing in the Semifinals. Trust me, folks. One of these kids will win, in order of my predictions: Samir Patel, Kavya Shivashankar, Jonathan Horton, Evan O'Dorney, Matthew Evans, Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan, Lina Bader or Tia Natasha-Elizabeth Thomas.

Yesterday certainly had some great highlights, the best being when Kennyi Aouad (speller No. 97) got "sardoodledom" and couldn't stop laughing. When he spelled it right, there was a loud roar.

Those who listen to "The Dan Patrick Show" on ESPN Radio heard Patrick quiz Samir Patel on the word "palaver" after NBA commissioner David Stern used it. Funny that "palaver" was on the actual list and speller Kevin Lotharp got it wrong. The first day of the Spelling Bee 2007 will also be remembered as the food attack as a normally great speller Yeeva Cheng somehow got out on "minestrone" and a couple minutes later David Ojo failed to spell "ricotta" correctly.

Now a couple more thoughts on the competition.

I spoke to Samir Patel yesterday at the Grand Hyatt before the quarterfinals. Kid is cocky, but the kind of cocky that I like to have. Jonathan Horton probably has the most unique approach, with the whole coughing into his hand thing. If he wins, America will be talking about his method tomorrow.

The only other kid not on my list who I think can win it is Alex Benjamin, speller No. 77. He's a three-time repeater who I know feels like he knows every word in the dictionary.

I'm also rooting for Prateek Kohli, who I assume is not Jewish, but his sponsor is Long Island Jewish World.

And while we're on the sponsor thing, with newspapers on the decline, you have to wonder if Web sites are going to start sponsoring these guys soon and paying them some good money to get on their placard that they wear around their neck. Could you imagine how much some blog like Deadspin would like to pay Samir Patel for exposure? It might be the last untapped revenue opportunity in sports!

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com