The USFL is making a comeback in 2022. The league is returning next year after going dormant since 1985. It once featured stars like Reggie White and Herschel Walker and is the latest spring football league to take a crack at the calendar slot.
The XFL returned and flamed out last year. A global pandemic made things very difficult for the fledgling league, yet the brain trust behind the USFL’s return believes the eight-team league will “deliver high-quality, innovative professional football to fans.”
There hasn’t been an announcement on official team names or cities, but the league has retained all of the original names from the 80s. Fox Sports owns a minority stake in the revamped USFL and will serve as the flagship broadcast partner for the league. Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks marked Thursday as “a landmark day for football fans and Fox Sports.”
Brian Woods is co-founder of the league; he has also helped build “The Spring League” which airs games on Fox.
“I’m extremely passionate about football, and the opportunity to work with Fox Sports and to bring back the USFL in 2022 was an endeavor worth pursuing,” said Woods. “We look forward to providing players a new opportunity to compete in a professional football league and giving fans everywhere the best football viewing product possible during what is typically a period devoid of professional football.”
The original endeavor lasted from 1983 to 1985 and crumbled due to overspending and mismanagement. Former President Donald Trump was an original owner and had a hand in the league’s attempt to play in the fall, right up against the NFL.
There could be two spring football leagues in 2022 after the XFL was purchased out of bankruptcy last year by owners Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, and RedBird Capital Partners. There is no confirmed start date for the XFL as they continue negotiating a merger with the Canadian Football League.
Russ Heltman is a daily news writer for BSM. He is the morning host and producer for 89.3 WMKV in Cincinnati, OH. He also works in gameday communications for FC Cincinnati and additionally contributes to the AllBengals blog for Sports Illustrated. Russ can be found on Twitter @RussHeltman11 or you can reach him by email at Heltmandm@yahoo.com.
FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend
The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.
FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.
In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.
The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.
Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.
FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.
Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.
ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling
“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”
ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.
ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.
Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.
“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”
Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.
NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records
FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.
The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.
The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.
The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.
The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.
Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.