Friday, May 11, 2012

USFL, and why it should be in Charleston

The NFL is one of the biggest professional sports enterprises in the world today. The 32 teams in the league are some of the most followed franchises in the world. The 53 players that make an NFL roster are some of the most athletic men in the world today. Thousands of players try to make the rosters every year, and many fail.

A problem is that there hasn't been a league to put all of these players. The XFL failed. The United Football League, by playing in the fall against the NFL, is barely known outside of the few markets that games are played in.

The WLAF (World League of American Football), with teams in the United States and Europe failed and became an all European league, which flourished for about a decade as NFL Europe, but it eventually fell. The WFL failed in the mid 1970s, even with several innovations like the two-point conversion.

From 1983-85, however, the United States Football League was the best challenger to the NFL. They played in major markets; had owners like Donald Trump, and got some of the best players out of college, including Herschel Walker, who set the single-season football rushing record. The league eventually tried to move to a fall schedule though, and it failed miserably, with the NFL only giving the USFL $3 in damages.

A new league has been formed though, which looks to begin in the spring of 2013. It has the USFL's namesake. The league was announced on May 10, and includes Hall of Fame WR Fred Biletnikoff as one of its advisors. You can learn more about it from this link:

The league plans to play ideally in 20,000-25,000 seat stadiums, and not in major cities competing with the NFL. A league-run organization would run all player and coach contracts.

The regular season would be 14 games, along with three playoff games, and the season would go from March till June. Players would come from nearby colleges and universities. Team budgets would be $8-$10 million.

The team entry price is $7.5 million, but $6.0 million would be put into a fund to run the league, including guaranteeing that all players and coaches would be paid. In addition, it is possible for the owners to purchase shares in the league itself.

The NFL would have complete access to players at all practice times and on game days. Fans would have increased access to coaches and players. Players would consist of players who had not been successful in playing for the NFL.

Now, I'll talk about why Charleston would be the perfect city to have a USFL team. The metro area consists of almost 700,000 people, the largest between Jacksonville and Raleigh and the 75th largest in the country. Football for decades has been the most popular sport in the entire area.

There are several ingredients to putting a team into Charleston. First, interest in sports.

South Carolina and Clemson get large percentages of their crowds from the Charleston metro area. The Citadel, with only just over 2,000 cadets, averages well over 10,000 fans per game even with no SoCon championships in 20 years. Other programs nearby like Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina and others usually draw good crowds.

High school games are almost always an event, and the bigger schools can get over 10,000 fans to their games. Games are frequently broadcast on radio and a weekly Thursday package airs on OTA TV.

The area loves its sports. Charleston has three minor league sports teams in hockey, baseball and soccer which all are very popular. College baseball (which would be during the USFL season) is also a huge sport in the area. Each team has its own niche that attracts people from the community. Three major universities: the College of Charleston, The Citadel, and Charleston Southern, all have vibrant athletic programs.

CofC frequently sells out its basketball arena and they have beaten North Carolina and Tennessee in the last few seasons there. In April each year, the Family Circle Cup gets big crowds to Daniel Island and Family Circle Tennis Stadium. Last year, the World TeamTennis semis and finals moved to Daniel Island and drew well even though the players weren't even known until days beforehand.

In August, the PGA Championship will be held at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course. This event will be the biggest in South Carolina sports history, having a nearly $200 million impact on the economy in a week.

Another ingredient; a ready-made stadium. Johnson Hagood Stadium seats 21,000, and is within 30 minutes of most of the Charleston metro. It is within 2 hours of Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Beaufort, a quick day trip for most. From December thru August, except for Citadel spring practices, a few Citadel lacrosse matches, and concerts and special events allowed by The Citadel, the stadium sits mostly empty.

Bringing in the USFL would help fill these dates, and would provide much-needed commerce to the downtown area, providing hotel nights and a help in real estate because all the players and coaches would need some type of housing.

Games locally would be held around RiverDogs games (i.e. when they're on the road), and more of them would be held on weekends which would provide more opportunities for bigger crowds.

A third ingredient; there are many companies who would be interested in perhaps helping buy a share of the team. Boeing provides several thousand jobs to the Lowcountry, along with Blackbaud, several hospitals including MUSC, Trident, St. Francis and Roper, plus numerous state companies like Continental Tire and BMW.

Radio and television coverage would also be important for the new team. The Charleston area alone has four sports radio stations; and several avenues that games could air on TV. Games could air on OTA, cable television and/or online. It is important to get something that could get the entire state involved in the new team.

Most of the Columbia metro (800,000 population) would be within 2 hours of the team. Myrtle Beach (nearly 300,000) would be within that. Sumter and Orangeburg, both at about 100,000 nearby, also would be within 2 hours.

Statewide marketing would also help promote the team in Greenville/Spartanburg and Anderson. With seven home games a year, perhaps one could be held in Columbia or Myrtle Beach the first year to promote the team. In most of the state, high school sports, the local colleges, and college/summer league baseball are the only draws during this this over 3-month period. This league would help fill a large void: a developmental league for the NFL. Several national networks will be interested in this new league.

More info about the league:

Another column:

An article:

E-mail for interest:

1 comment:

  1. It sounds great, but I am sure there are plenty of places across the country that have similar demographics and could make the same claims.

    And I don't care how much it is promoted statewide, I don't see people in Greenville/Spartanburg & Anderson supporting a spring football team in Charleston.