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UFL needs to figure out whether it wants to compete with or complement NFL

When the UFL arrived on the sports scene, there was plenty of bluster regarding an aspiration to go toe-to-toe with the NFL. Over time, that sentiment shifted; the UFL seemed to be willing to position itself to be an in-season minor league for the NFL.

But in a recent HDNet interview that has made its way to YouTube, league investor Mark Cuban dusted off some of the rhetoric that the UFL previously had abandoned.

“The idea of coming into the business of football and taking on the NFL, that’s about as exciting to me as you can get,” Cuban said.

Other comments from Cuban made us wonder whether he’s simply doing a little carnival barking for a sports league that most of the country has yet to notice. For example, Cuban says that the UFL talent level “is off the charts” and that it’s “pretty much hand-in-hand with anything you’re gonna get from the NFL.”

Clearly, there’s a gap between the NFL and the UFL. And the UFL needs to acknowledge that, if the UFL wants to survive and thrive, the UFL needs to set itself up as a complement to the NFL.

Right now, for example, a team like the Jaguars may want to “call up” Daunte Culpepper or Jeff Garcia. And instead of cutting a guy like Trent Edwards, the Bills could have merely demoted him to the UFL affiliate in, say, Scranton.

Many details and issues would have to be resolved if a true farm system were to emerge, but the best long-term plan for the UFL seems to be not to engage the NFL but to embrace the UFL’s potential role as a partner with the NFL.

For now, though, the UFL needs to get noticed. And one way for the UFL to get noticed is to declare to the world that it’s going to try to hit Goliath in the head with a rock.