Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is part of a group considering
formation of a football league that would compete with the NFL for
players drafted lower than the second round.
The league, still very much in the preliminary stage, would play
its games on Friday nights. The NFL does not play then because of
the potential conflict with high school football.
"It's a pretty simple concept," Cuban said in an e-mail to The
Associated Press. "We think there is more demand for pro football
The proposal was first disclosed by The New York Times on its
Web site, which said it was the idea of Bill Hambrecht, a Wall
Street investor who was a minority partner in the Oakland Invaders
of the USFL, which played in the spring from 1983-85. Sharon Smith,
a spokeswoman for Hambrecht and Company, had no comment and said
Hambrecht was traveling and unavailable to talk about the idea.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he was aware of the proposed
league, but had no further comment.
It's a pretty simple concept. We think there is more demand for pro football than supply.
On his blog, Cuban explained how the new league, dubbed the UFL, would actually be good for the NFL.
"The NFL wants and needs competition," Cuban wrote. "They have grown so big and powerful that every move they make is scrutinized by local or federal officials. A competitor allows them to point to us and explain that their moves are for competitive reasons rather than the move of a monopoly."
There have been numerous leagues that have tried to compete with
the NFL and a few that actually played games, starting with the
AFL, which began in 1960 and fully merged with the NFL a decade
later. It included such current franchises as New England, Oakland,
Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo, the New York Jets and Denver.
More recently came the World Football League in the early 1970s,
which raided the NFL for such stars as Larry Csonka. Then came the
USFL, which played in the spring before folding after receiving
only $3 in an antitrust "victory" over the NFL.
The USFL featured such future Hall of Famers as Jim Kelly,
Reggie White and Steve Young, but lost millions of dollars trying
to compete for players. It also had internal struggles among a
majority of owners who wanted to stay in the spring, and the best
known among them, Donald Trump, who wanted to move to the fall and
try to force a merger with the NFL.
The most recent pro football league was the XFL, founded by the
World Wrestling Federation and televised by NBC. The XFL lasted
just three months in the spring of 2001 and was best known for a
player named Rod Smart, called "He Hate Me," who later played as
a return man and backup running back in the NFL.
So far, the proposed new league is in its infancy and Cuban is
the only potential owner for what the founders hope will be an
Cuban said in his e-mail he believes the salary cap makes it
easier to compete financially with the NFL because of the salary
imbalance that leaves lower-level players with lower salaries. That
would allow the new league to fill its rosters with players taken
lower than the second round, as well as late NFL cuts and free
agents who escape the NFL draft.
Many such players, including Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick of
New England, have become NFL stars.
"That's not to say it will be easy. It won't," Cuban wrote.
"We still have to cover quite a bit of ground and have a lot of
milestones to hit. That said, if we can get the right owners I
obviously think we can make this work."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.