NFL Reportedly Assisting USFL, Likely With Future Interests In Mind

In 2019, an upstart league that involved Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian called the Alliance of American Football opened its doors—and quickly closed it a little more than halfway through its inaugural season, due to funding issues that led to the emergence of a new majority owner who pushed for goals too high. He decided to pull the plug after he could not get the NFL to agree to directly cooperate with the AAF on a timeline he would like.

2020 saw the resurrection of Vince McMahon’s XFL, which was having a successful return until the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the world in its tracks. Rather than work to resume, he shuttered the doors, and has since sold the league to a group that includes one of his former employees, The Rock, Dwayne Johnson.

The third incarnation of the XFL is slated to return in 2023, but before then, the latest rendition of the USFL is already preparing to get underway, having recently held its inaugural draft, which features the names of many players who spent enough time to have a cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Steelers during an offseason once upon a time.

But there will be one thing that’s a little different this time around. Now, the NFL is open to helping, not just the XFL, but the USFL, as well. It was already reported last month that the NFL and XFL were going to work together on certain game-related and health-related studies.

Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch told a Morgan Stanley conference last week that “The NFL has actually been tremendously helpful to us in thinking through and setting up the USFL”, and indeed, rather than obstruct their efforts, “it’s the opposite. They’ve helped us”, according to Dude Hayes of Deadline. He did not go into detail, precisely, about how exactly the NFL has been of assistance.

The USFL’s season will begin on April 16, with the inaugural game pitting the New Jersey Generals against the Birmingham Stallions at 7:30 PM on FOX, NBC, and Peacock in a joint broadcast. The Pittsburgh Maulers have dibs on the league’s second-ever primetime broadcast, hosting the Tampa Bay Bandits on April 17 at 8 PM, on FS1.

The league consists of eight teams, retaining their original names from the first iteration of the USFL, though at least for this first season, they will all play in a central location. There is potential in the future for outside investors to purchase individual franchises—or all of them. The NFL could even be one such investor.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, one thing that could greatly help a new spring league survive is the meteoric rise of micro sports betting, and the diminishing of legal obstacles. As long as the players aren’t placing bets, at least. Even the AAF tried to get in on gambling, and had some proprietary technology that was sold off as part of their assets—acquired by MGM for a paltry sum of $125,000.

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