EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The colors looked odd on the field and yes, the crowd was pretty sparse in such a large stadium, but the UFL’s first game in the New York area, seemed to be a success.
The final score didn’t seem to matter, even though Dennis Green’s California Redwoods beat Ted Cotrell’s Sentinels, 20-13. More importantly this league seems to be doing it the right way and has a chance to succeed.
Unlike past upstart football leagues, the UFL wants to be a complimentary unit to the NFL. Much like the way the Atlantic League works outside of affiliated baseball, but draws some name players, this league is setting itself up to be a place where players can continue their careers. Some may be coming back from injury while others are just looking for another chance after getting cut from an NFL club.
“We had some guys here, like Simeon Rice, who had some injuries and are just looking to come back to play,” Cotrell said. “There are a few players like that and there are players coming up that just need a chance. It’s a win-win thing. If they do well, then we do well.”
That’s what the UFL is looking for. Unlike leagues like the WFL and USFL in the past, the UFL is trying to control salaries by installing a hard cap. There are no million dollar bonuses, an outlandish contracts. Instead this is a league for development and development. At Giants Stadium today, there were NFL scouts looking for talent and if a player gets a chance, the league will probably let them go.
“The model they have set up, there’s a hard salary cap, but a wage that is still attractive to some players,” Cotrell said. “It’s still a good brand off football, but without the million dollar bonuses.”
More importantly though, the league seems to be playing it straight. Instead of reinventing the wheel here, the game is pretty much what you will see on Sundays in the NFL. They play the same rules with the same size field and there are no XFL-like gimmicks, which ruin the flow of the match.
And that seems to be a good thing. Will the UFL survive long term is anyone’s guess and they will have to get attendance up, especially after tonight’s crowd, which was far smaller than the 10,318 announced crowd.
But the games are on television and the league is making changes as it goes along, like next week’s game which was originally scheduled for Citi Field will now be played at Hofstra in order to play in a more intimate environment, with the hope that the college crowd will come out to see some professional football.
It’s also good to see coaches like Cotrell, Green, and former Giants coach Jim Fassel getting second chances as well. But this is a league of second chances and even though the first game in the area could have been better, the UFL seems to be learning and for that reason alone, the league has a chance to survive.