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New USFL aims to be true NFL minor league


The USFL is back.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. The four-letter league from the 1980s that started with modest aspirations and then allowed success to go to its head, prompting a Trumped-up failed competition with the NFL and a successful lawsuit that yielded just enough to buy 60 percent of a five-dollar footlong, plans to return as a true NFL minor league.

52-year-old Jamie Cuadra has acquired the brand, and he plans to launch a cost-conscious league with teams in cities that have neither pro football nor major league baseball.

Jim Steeg, who served as COO of the Chargers and organized the Super Bowl for 34 years, is assisting the effort in an unpaid (for now) capacity. “I like the idea a lot,” Steeg tells Nick Canepa of U-T San Diego. “I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks the idea sucks. If you truly believe a triple-A spring football league has merit, this is the way to go. It’s not meant to compete with the NFL. It will give players the opportunity to develop. There are 3,000 football players and only 1,800 roster spots in the NFL. Particularly with the NFL’s new CBA, I think this kind of thing has a different place.”

Players will receive $3,000 to $3,500 per game, far more than the Arena League pays. And the NFL will have “unfettered access” to the players, allowing them to leave whenever they want.

Target cities include Akron, Ohio, Portland, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Austin, Texas, Memphis, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., Omaha, Neb., and Baton Rouge, La. The USFL also hopes to hire a Commissioner with “Hall of Fame credentials,” with Cuadra in the background running the business.

“I’m one of those guys who always said when other people got things started: ‘That’s a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that?’” Cuadra said. “That’s what I’m doing. It’s a romantic idea, but a romantic idea with legs.”

It’s definitely a good idea, and it would be an even better idea if the games were played during actual football season, in cities that have neither NFL nor major-college football, with a direct NFL association and baseball-style call-up and send-down pipelines.