Despite the Arena Football League’s fall, the United Football League is still going ahead with plans to debut next year. I spoke with the UFL’s chief operating officer Frank Vuono about the league’s future.
Darren: I’ve gone to the league web site and there are a lot of things still up in the air even though you are launching next fall. How many owners have committed?
Vuono: We have identified four groups, but we’re not naming names until the checks clear.
Darren: How many ownership groups do you need in order to start the season?
Vuono: We think we need six in order to move forward in some fashion, even if that means the league would own some teams. The economy has hurt us in that we’ve had people that were right on the ledge about to take the step and then they lost tons of money and pulled back.
Darren: What are the cities you have finalized?
Vuono: We have Hartford, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, Vegas and San Francisco. And once we get off the ground, we believe there are second year commitments in Monterrey and Salt Lake City.
Darren: When is the deadline for debuting the league this year? When is the point that this is on or off?
Vuono: We’re going to have something by the weekend of the Super Bowl (Feb. 1).
Darren: And if you can’t go for 2009, what happens?
Vuono: Well, we don’t really want to think about that because we have too much momentum right now. We’ll have a television deal, we have all the venues set and I think it would be a mistake to put it off one more season. If we did that, it would be hard to criticize though, given this economic environment.
Darren: How does the Arena Football League going down for 2009 affect you?
Vuono: It doesn’t hurt us at all. In fact, in provides all those people who loved their league and have disposable income with an alternative. But from a quality of play perspective, it will be an upgrade. Nothing against their players, but many of their players wouldn’t be playing in the NFL. Our guys are going to be pulled from the bottom half of NFL rosters and are the guys who would be the last cuts of an NFL team. We’ll sign guys that have been squeezed out of the league because of the salary cap. The truth is that the NFL could expand by eight to 10 teams and we’re going to take advantage of the talent that is out there.
Darren: What’s the planned schedule?
Vuono: From August through Thanksgiving. It’s a 10-game season that will take place mostly on Friday nights. The national television deal would be a Thursday night primetime game.
Darren: What’s the salary cap?
Vuono: It’s a $20 million cap for each team, including salary, benefits and pension. And with that, we feel like we can get that undrafted free agent. The average salary will be in the $300,000 to $350,000 and we think we’ll be able to pay a college quarterback that got drafted in the fourth to sixth round in the NFL Draft more money to come to us.
Darren: Do you think anyone who went with your league would be blackballed from the NFL?
Vuono: You never know, but I doubt it.
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