League owner Fox intends to keep the league on the field for a second season (and more). Network CEO Lachlan Murdoch recently told Axios that “Fox plans to continue building up small local teams and then sell those franchises to local owners in five to seven years’ time.”
The report also frames the USFL’s ratings as “surprisingly good.” Which is certainly good spin from Fox, as Awful Announcing detailed. But what does seem objectively clear is the ratings are good enough for Fox to keep the venture afloat moving forward. Which is no small feat considering the last three high-profile attempts to establish a spring football league — the XFL, AAF and XFL 2.0 — all failed to reach a second season for myriad reasons.
That said, those three defunct leagues all felt significantly more relevant from a sports culture standpoint than the USFL currently does. And when the third itineration of the XFL launches in 2023 — with The Rock as a front man and with an ESPN broadcast deal — the same will likely be said again. Not to mention the fact XFL 3.0 is reportedly determined to run the USFL off the road.
Fox may have enough cash on hand to run the USFL as a loss leader for three seasons. But that doesn’t mean it will necessarily want to set the money on fire just because.
Getting back to the locals: The Generals are 5-1 and have a two-game lead atop the North Division. The playoffs look like a certainty. Their season-opening loss to the unbeaten Birmingham Stallions may have been a title game preview. Championship parade in front of the oil drums of Moonachie?
Yet, we’re willing to bet this is the first time many (all?) of you reading this post have learned this.
If the USFL does move away from its single-site approach (the entire season has been played in Birmingham) for its second season, you have to wonder if hauling the Generals to New Jersey makes any sense. No one cares now. No one will care. Move them to Memphis and call them the Showboats. Fox must have that IP too.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]