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USFL Serves Up A Smorgasbord Of Football In Birmingham Each Week

Post by Solomon Crenshaw Jr. from Alabama NewsCenter

The U in USFL could easily stand for unique.

The United States Football League is different from the other pro gridiron franchise associations that have come to Birmingham. For starters, all of this league calls the Magic City its home.

Gene Hallman, CEO of the Alabama Sports Foundation, said the USFL provides a tremendous opportunity for the Birmingham community.

“A professional football league has never before played its regular season, in its entirety, in one city,” he said. “We have a platform for a national television audience multiple times every weekend, over half of which are network TV. We have a huge economic impact with all these players and coaches staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants.”

Some out-of-town fans will visit, although their number is unknown. “But there’s clearly a fan base that’s growing in each of these markets,” Hallman said. “You can see it on the various message boards and the league fan boards where there’s already chatter among the cities about their team and their chances for success. This feels so much different than the previous leagues we’ve had in town.”

Birmingham’s Protective Stadium will host the new United States Football League’s first four games this weekend. (contributed)

Alabama Sports Foundation was engaged with the past two pro football leagues and those were not good experiences, Hallman said.

“We were left being owed money with the last one,” he said of the Alliance of American Football. “This (USFL) has the appropriate resources, the professionalism, and you can clearly tell they’re in it for the long term.”

Television, or a lack of it, was often a challenge for prior leagues in which Birmingham teams played. This version of the USFL is on much more sound footing.

“There’s no doubt that the league is sound, solid and in it for the long term,” Hallman said. “Here, you’ve got NBC and Fox at the forefront, and they’re devoting network television to more than 50 percent of the games and the other games will be on cable television nationally.

“There is an appetite for television viewing of spring football,” he continued. “Everything about this business plan checks all the boxes and indicates that, with some time as we move through this season and the subsequent seasons, that this is the recipe needed for success.”

The Birmingham Stallions will face the New Jersey Generals Saturday at Protective Stadium with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.  The game airs on NBC and Fox. A tripleheader follows at the stadium on Sunday. The Houston Gamblers face the Michigan Panthers at 11 a.m. on NBC, the Philadelphia Stars square off with the New Orleans Breakers at 3 p.m. on USA and the Tampa Bay Bandits meet the Pittsburgh Maulers at  7 p.m. on FS1. To learn more and for ticket information, visit theusfl.com.

Ticket sales are going very well for the first game, Hallman said, and ticket prices, by design, are extremely affordable at $10 a ticket with children age 15 and younger admitted free.

Skip Holtz, coach of the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions, speaks at an announcement event in January. (Greg Garrison / AL.com)

“This is designed for people that want to partake of a football smorgasbord,” he said. “A game ticket is good for all day and we allow passouts. You can buy one ticket for Sunday, this Sunday, and there are three football games and you can come and go as you please among those three games with one ticket.

“The concept behind the ticket pricing is to make it very affordable so that people come often,” the ASF CEO said. “Not only will the football be entertaining, but the game’s run-of-show itself will be highly entertaining. A lot of thought and effort have gone into what happens during timeouts, what happens at halftime.”

The Miles College band – the Purple Marching Machine – is performing at halftime of the first game and an Easter egg hunt is scheduled Sunday morning.

Hallman said the USFL provides “something for everybody.” There is a Kid Zone play area for young children.  Additionally, there will be giveaways for the first number of fans on certain nights.

And there will be theme nights, from NASCAR night when drivers are in Talladega or a WWE night when the wrestlers are nearby and perhaps an Atlanta Braves night.

Hallman anticipates on-field football play will be top-notch as well, as the league features an impressive list of coaches, including Jeff Fisher, Skip Holtz, Mike Riley, Kevin Sumlin and Bart Andrus.

While the league will use conventional football rules, it will feature some unique twists, including the option of a three-point conversion after a touchdown and modifications to kickoffs and pass interference.

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