Strength lies in numbers, but poor planning can weaken everything. When the XFL and the USFL officially announced their merger to form the UFL in December, it was to strengthen professional football in a country obsessed with the sport.
„When we come together to form the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting, and very cool for football fans – a spring league with a lasting impact for all players dreaming of playing professional football, and the ‚hardest workers in the room,'“ said Dwayne „The Rock“ Johnson, a league partner, at the time of the merger.
However, the decision to announce the schedule for the upcoming 2024 season in a week when the world is fixated on NFL football was not a wise decision.
„The UFL will now have extraordinary platforms through which fans can experience spring football. We’re equally excited to welcome new and returning fans back to our venues this season, so they can immerse themselves in the energy of spring football,“ said UFL President/CEO Russ Brandon in a statement. „Our players are here to perform and reach the next level, and our fans will be treated to an excellent product on the field and a great stadium experience.“
On Super Bowl Monday – the same day Roger Goodell held his annual and always controversial press conference – the UFL announced its 43-game schedule, with the champions of the former leagues – Arlington Renegades (XFL) and Birmingham Stallions (USFL) – kicking off the season on March 30.
The teams comprising the league are the Birmingham Stallions (Protective Stadium), Arlington Renegades (Choctaw Stadium), Houston Roughnecks (Rice Stadium), DC Defenders (Audi Field), Memphis Showboats (Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium), San Antonio Brahmas (The Alamodome), Michigan Panthers (Ford Field), and the St. Louis Battlehawks (The Dome at America’s Center).
According to a Bericht von ESPN, „Every UFL game will be broadcast on either ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2, or FS1.“ ABC/ESPN games will be streamed on ESPN+, and Fox games will be streamed on the Fox Sports app. Nearly three-quarters of the games will be aired on either ABC or Fox.
One of the best things that the XFL had to offer before the merger was the diversity among its head coaches. In its first season (2023), the XFL overshadowed the NFL by having half of the league led by black head coaches, including Hines Ward, Terrell Buckley, Reggie Barlow, and Rod Woodson.
Last season, the USFL and XFL fought for ratings as each league attempted multiple times to reach the million-viewer mark. The merger is an attempt to grow and expand the game. But if that’s the dream, then it feels more like a nightmare to attract attention during the week when people are solely focused on the Super Bowl.