Yesterday, the United Football League released their full 2012 football schedule. The press release comes fresh on the heels of the league’s announcement that CBS Sports has picked up the TV rights for the entire season. Don’t look now, but things might be starting to turn the corner for the still-new football league. After a tumultuous 2011 season that saw the schedule re-written several times and then ultimately shortened to save money, the league has some work to do to re-gain the confidence of their fans.
Entering its fourth season, the league will gain a big boost both in familiarity and that confidence, from the new television deal.
“We’re pleased to partner with the UFL and bring more live football to CBS Sports Network,” said Dan Weinberg, Senior Vice President, Programming, CBS Sports Network. “Fans have an appetite for football at all levels and we’re excited to showcase the UFL.”
“Gaining a partnership with CBS Sports Network gives the UFL the chance to be seen in more than 99 million homes, spreading its reach beyond the local markets,” said Larry Weisman, the UFL’s new Executive Director of Communications. “Having CBSSN aboard also opens other doors for the UFL. It says that people believe in the product and what it can become.”
Weisman was the Washington Redskins’ Editorial Director from 2009-2011. Previous to that, he was an NFL beat writer for USA today for 25 years. He certainly knows football, and he knows how to handle media relations, having done so in one of the stickiest of markets. His knowledge and experience will be priceless to the UFL.
“I began work in earnest on this project this week. I had had some discussions with Jim Fassel, the Las Vegas Locomotives coach and a long-time friend, for a few weeks, mostly just giving some advice and talking about concepts. As the CBS deal grew near, we were able to come to a meeting of the minds.”
Weisman will get to work right away. Just staying afloat is a daily grind for a second-tier league, and it seems that the UFL may finally have cut their teeth with enough (of the right) people, that they can start finding their niche. Considering last year’s issues, there is much to be done.
“Developing the current markets to their fullest and finding new ones, based on increased exposure, will be critical on the business side.” Weisman told THN. “On the football side, we want to find and develop players and create our own brand of exciting football.”
This season, the league will run ‘along side’ of the National Football League – a decision that has made a few people wonder aloud as to why the league would ‘take on the NFL.’
Weisman addressed the scheduling questions: “Playing football in the fall seems like the natural time. It’s, well, football season. By setting up our schedule for Wednesday and Friday, we take advantage of the midweek lull in activity. We expect to fill an entertainment void on TV, while providing an exciting venue in our four cities for fans to come out and attend.”
It would actually seem, well, smart, to take advantage of such a captive audience. For example, the NFL regular season hasn’t even started yet, and many NFL fans are already going through last year’s games, or former glory games, just to try and quench their insatiable football thirsts. It’s like putting up a Big Box store beside another Big Box store; it doesn’t hurt either of them – they both win because of the added traffic to the area. Put football in front of people during the NFL season, and some of them are going to watch it. Period.
Many might postulate that the United Football League would be posturing to get noticed by the National Football League – to perhaps develop a reputation for being some sort of farm system like some of the past football entities have attempted to market themselves as.
Weisman categorically disagrees with the approach.
“We don’t talk about being a feeder league for the NFL. We talk about being a place where we can build a new brand of football, create our own stars, develop new fan loyalties. If players find a way to gain a new opportunity from exposure in the UFL, that will only make us more attractive. There’s a lot of talent out there, and not every player can play in the NFL.”
The UFL will be launching a new website shortly, and the teams are also getting new websites – some of them already launched and running. Weisman indicated the league intends to be social network friendly, and recognizes the importance of connecting with the fans at that level, “We will do all we can to engage fans and give them a sense of proximity to their favorite teams and players.”
There seems to be a sense of better organization and foundation, this time around for the league. Thanks to the television deal, football fans outside of Virginia, Omaha, Las Vegas, and Sacramento are going to get a chance to check out the UFL’s new brand of football as well. Rabid football fans will be able to watch football Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday this year… at least.
The support for football has grown so large over the last decade; can the UFL finally tap that market, find a foothold in 2012 and stake its claim as a viable football entity?
Tune into CBS Sports Network to find out!
Follow Larry Weisman on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman and follow me @TheHogsdotNet