UFL Moves Up Championship Game

The UFL will play its third championship game on Friday.
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John Archibald, Resolution Sports

Following this past weekend’s slate of games, the United Football League (UFL) formally announced that it will be moving up its 2011 championship game to this Friday in Virginia, cancelling the final two weeks of the regular season. The two teams currently sitting atop the league standings with matching 3-1 records are the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Locos and Virginia Destroyers, and those two organizations are now set to meet in the final game of the league’s third season.

“The Hampton Roads region will be the perfect venue for our season showpiece and has earned the right to host the game, and we are certain football fans will pack the Virginia Beach Sportsplex,” UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue stated. “The Virginia market has been a great success for the UFL in terms of attendance and social media interaction, and of course having a winning team on the field, so we are rewarding Virginia with the right to host the game.”

Huyghue also commented on the selection of the two league finalists.

“Our two top teams are playing in the championship game next week, and at 3-1, they are deadlocked with the best record, so (they) are deserving finalists,” he continued. “They in large part have a three-year grudge match going on by virtue of Virginia having many former Florida Tuskers players. I am confident this game will be another spectacular close to our third season.”

The immediate reaction of everyone who heard this announcement was that the UFL was moving up the championship game because monetary losses over the past three years were causing the league to cease operations. However, UFL founder and Locos owner Bill Hambrecht denied the assumption, saying that the maneuver was made simply to resume planning for the future of the league.

“This strategy of moving straight to the championship game is the best means by which to take the UFL forward,” he said. “We faced many challenges during the offseason but were still able to kick off our third season. The focus on building a blueprint for the long-term success of the league begins immediately with plans to expand to a minimum of six teams for the 2012 season.”

While many may feel the writing is on the wall for the UFL, I am one person who sincerely hopes that is not the case. I have closely followed the league since the first time I heard intentions from long-time sports marketer Frank Vuono of creating a developmental football league back in 2008, and I do truly feel there is a place in the American sports landscape for a secondary football league. The UFL has taken many positive steps to build its foundation, and it would be an absolute shame if Friday is the last time it takes the field. From reviving careers of former NFL coaches and Pro Bowlers to providing professional football in regions that have never had a team to call their own, the UFL definitely provides a much needed addition to the platform of professional sports. Additionally, over 100 players who suited up in the UFL have inked NFL contracts.

Unfortunately, the financial commitments that are required to maintain a respectable and properly run league are extreme. The UFL has lost over a reported $100 million over the past two years, and unofficial attempts for the league to create some type of formal partnership with the NFL have never come to fruition. One can only expect owners and financial backers to write checks for so long when the losses remain high, but consistent five-digit attendance numbers in three of the four current markets (Omaha, Sacramento and Virginia) prove that there is fan support to keep the league afloat. However, sponsorship dollars are where the bread gets buttered in professional sports.

In the economic times we face, any business is fighting overwhelming odds to keep its doors open, let alone a professional sports league. Three seasons tends to be the measuring stick in sports as to whether a league is headed towards a long-term future or cutting its losses and shutting down, so we should expect to know the fate of the league in the coming months. The sad truth is that this will likely be the last legitimate attempt to feed a football crazed nation a secondary league to follow, and it was clearly the best chance we football fans had since the United States Football League closed up shop in 1987.

So for the time being, the show goes on this Friday when the UFL hosts the finale of its third season of operation. The previous two championship games were drama-filled entertainment that any true sports fan would enjoy, and the third act is shaping up to follow that lead. Let’s just hope this one isn’t the final curtain call.

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