August 23, 2010: The United Football League is moving ahead with plans to place an expansion team in Virginia for the 2011 season despite that fact that the ownership group that had been granted "conditional approval" by the league in June has apparently lost that status due to financial challenges.
A statement from the UFL said that the "league has decided to take control of the Virginia team and over time will determine the best local ownership groups to partner with the league." Of the five franchises preparing for the 2010 season, two were relocated from the premiere season of 2009 and a third is an expansion team.
In June, the UFL granted "conditional approval" for Virginia businessman Jim Speros to be the provisional Tidewater region team’s owner. In addition, Doug Williams, former NFL quarterback who was named MVP of Super Bowl XXII with the Washington Redskins, was named the team's general manager. The UFL did not say where the team would play its home games, but reports from the area said that league officials had toured several potential sites.
The UFL now says that it has taken control of the Virginia team In order to continue this process and that "over time will determine the best local ownership groups to partner with the league." The league said it has seen an "overwhelming amount of interest from local ownership groups to purchase the Virginia team."
According to the UFL, "Fortunately we have no financial pressure to rush this decision," and that "Speros would be considered among other candidates interested in purchasing an interest in the team."
Williams will continue in the role of GM and will manage football operations. Ed Reynolds, the UFL's vp-administration and special assistant to Commissioner Michael Huyghue, will serve as team president and will oversee team operations on a day-to-day basis, beginning Aug. 23. He will be based in Hampton Roads.
The league said it would make an announcement on Sept. 1 regarding the name, home venue and ticket sales for the Virginia team.
The decision comes with less than a month to go to the opening of the second UFL season, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. It also comes as the UFL is preparing to launch its first national marketing campaign, anchored by two TV spots from new UFL lead agency BBDO, New York. Support is expected to include local radio, newspaper and direct mail approaches in each of the league’s five markets.
The league is seeking placement with its two official national TV partners, Versus and HDNet, the latter of which is majority owned by Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. Marketing partners last season included Motorola, Men's Wearhouse, StubHub, ANC Sports, GameWear and Riddell, some of whom had marketing deals that included branding on the front-center of player's helmets.
In the UFL sports, fans go to unusual lengths to show their support for the league. In "Knee Caps," two guys whack each other with crow bars, bats and other implements so that they can get an extended hospital stay during UFL season to watch games on TV. In "Closer," fans camouflage themselves as goal posts, coaching chalk boards, stadium walls and sideline equipment so that they can be right on top of the action.
Participating franchises in the 2010 season are defending UFL champion Las Vegas Locomotives, the Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials (formerly the New York Sentinels), Sacramento Mountain Lions (formerly the California Redwoods based out of the San Francisco Bay Area) and the expansion Omaha Nighthawks.
“Any time you have an opportunity to take advantage of coming back to your home state is an opportunity to relish and look forward to,” Reynolds, who played college football at Virginia, said in a statement. “It is an exciting opportunity to create synergy and establish a great product like the United Football League in a market that is dynamic and ready for professional football.”
Prior to joining the UFL for the 2009 season Reynolds worked for 12 seasons with the NFL in football operations and security. Reynolds also played linebacker in the NFL from 1983-1992 with the New England Patriots and New York Giants.