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Jul272012

Deal With CBS Sports Network Puts Beleaguered UFL Game Plan Back In Play

By Barry Janoff

July 27, 2012: Just call the United Football League the Jason Voorhees of sports.

Despite being drowned, stabbed, shot, burned and left for dead on numerous occasions, Jason has continued to return to stalk victims in a series of Friday the 13th movies dating back some 30 years.

Since beginning play in 2009, the UFL has been left for dead on several occasions, usually through faults of its own.

The latest instance came in 2011 when the league operated without a national TV deal, folded one of its five franchises, cut its already reduced season down to four games and then immediately held a championship game. Among the casualties were some of the league's marketing partners and UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue, who resigned from office.

Now comes word that the UFL will return for 2012, what would be the league's fourth season, thanks in great part to a deal under which CBS Sports Network will televise two games per week every Wednesday and Friday live throughout the UFL’s eight-week season. A championship game would then follow.

Industry analysts said it was likely that CBS Sports Network now has a financial stake in the league.

Primary UFL investors include investment banker and IPO wiz Bill Hambrecht, real estate and venture capitalist Paul Pelosi and investment banker Bill Mayer.

The league would return four teams from last season, three of which have head coaches with significant NFL experience: two-time UFL champion Las Vegas Locos (with head coach Jim Fassel), Omaha Nighthawks, defending champion Virginia Destroyers (under head coach Marty Schottenheimer) and Sacramento Lions (head coach Dennis Green). There also has been talk of expansion, with San Antonio and Jackson, MS, among the contenders.
 
UFL executives said they would operate without a commissioner or official league office. The UFL Web site and Facebook page are currently being updated. The official Twitter account hasn't been updated since January.

“We’re very happy to partner with CBS Sports Network in bringing the UFL’s games to football-hungry fans everywhere,” Bill Mayer, the UFL’s acting chairman, said in a statement. “CBS Sports has always been identified with excellence in its presentation of football, and the UFL promises to extend that reputation by putting a great product on the field.”

Rosters have primarily consisted of young players who were cut from or did not make NFL squads and veteran NFLers winding down their career. The latter has included quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Daunte Culpepper and running back Ahman Green.

The UFL is not to be confused with the "new" United States Football League, which is also attempting a football reincarnation. The USFL — a version of which operated from 1983-87 — said it plans to hit the gridiron next year with at least eight teams and play a 14-game season from March-June, according to league owner EndZone Sports Management, San Diego.

CBS Sports Network will use the fledgling UFL to bolster its sports line-up. The schedule includes coverage of Professional Bull Riders, Major League Lacrosse and the National Lacrosse League, The Tim Brando Show and Rome, hosted by Jim Rome.

CBS Sports Network will also televise U.S. Tennis Open qualifying matches, beginning Tuesday, Aug. 21 through Friday, August 24.

“We’re pleased to partner with the UFL and bring more live football to CBS Sports Network,” Dan Weinberg, svp-programming for CBS Sports Network, said in a statement. “Fans have an appetite for football at all levels and we’re excited to showcase the UFL.”

Third And Long: Will The UFL Be Sacked in 2011?

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