Football Hayes & Cannon

Professional Football in Columbus?

J.T. Barrett against Michigan.

With the recent, public collapse of the Alliance of American Football, I’ve had a few conversations about a pro football league’s chance of sustainable success. If nothing else, it’s interesting to discuss if a league even has a chance of survival, given the popularity and dominance of the National Football League.

Leagues like the USFL, XFL and the aforementioned AAF (never had a chance with a league name that doesn’t include the word “League”… amateurs) have all come and gone, with varying degrees of success.

I recently finished a book by Jeff Pearlman about the rise and fall of the USFL. For those that may not know the story, this league dared to challenge the mighty NFL in the 1980s, but did so with spring football. Though they ultimately made some poor decisions and ended after just three seasons, they also had some surprising victories over the NFL.

The USFL was able to bring over NFL stars like Joe Cribbs, Brian Sipe, and Doug Williams and, even more impressively, persuaded some big-time college players to sign on. Names like Herschel Walker, Mike Rozier, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, and Reggie White all opted to play in the USFL before eventually landing in the NFL. Hard to imagine anyone choosing an option over the NFL today, let alone three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners like Walker, Rozier, and Doug Flutie.

The league had teams that drew crowds in the 40,000-fan range consistently. That may not surpass any NFL franchises, but it would certainly make them take a hard look at their marketing plans.

Okay, that’s enough of a history lesson by an old guy about old leagues that couldn’t quite cut it.

What would it take for you to attend a game and, beyond that, to be a fan of a pro team that’s not in the NFL?

For me, the answer is simple and involves three main schools of thought.

First, and this one won’t require much typing, the games should be played in the spring. I already invest my fall Saturdays on Buckeye football and my fall Sundays belong to the Browns. Give me football in the spring, and I’ll give you at least three hours of my attention a week.

Second, the teams should be set up in diehard college football cities and towns for this particular model (Columbus, Tuscaloosa, Norman), because, well… see below.

Last, and here’s where it gets fun, the new league should incorporate our fall Saturdays (and potentially Sundays). By that I mean give me a roster chalk-full of former or fringe-NFL Buckeyes and I’m in. For those of you that attended other Ohio schools, sure, throw in some Bobcats, Falcons, Bearcats, etc. too. Whatever helps buy your fandom. Since that pool may not be large enough, go ahead and toss in a handful of Browns (or, fine, Bengals) that are possibly nearing the end of their NFL days, and I’m definitely in.

You put a roster like this (below) on the field in the spring, and I’m in. I’ll not only watch on TV, but I’ll buy tickets to games and rep the team’s logo on just about anything. Who doesn’t want to see how a bunch of former Buckeyes fare against teams with similar rosters from the Alabamas, Oklahomas, etc.

(Yes, I realize that a few of these players are still on NFL rosters and could have strong careers there, but why not aim big?)

Ohio State Football Rose Bowl Terrelle PryorQuarterbacks

Cardale Jones
J.T. Barrett
Terrelle Pryor

Running Backs

Carlos Hyde
Boom Herron
Jordan Hall
Jaamal Berry

Wide Receivers

Jalin Marshall
Braxton Miller
Devin Smith
Evan Spencer
DeVier Posey
Dontre Wilson
Dane Sanzenbacher

Tight Ends

Marcus Baugh
Jake Stoneburner

Offensive Line

Chase Farris
Marcus Hall
Reid Fragel
Mike Adams
Jacoby/Justin Boren (really, any Boren… more to come)


Doran Grant
Armani Reeves
Adam Griffin
Devon Torrence


Christian Bryant
Tyvis Powell
Damon Webb


Joshua Perry
Brian Rolle
Ross Homan
Zach Boren

Defensive Line

Tracy Sprinkle
Vernon Gholston
Tommy Schutt
Adolphus Washington

Special Teams

Drew Basil
Ben Buchanan

7 Responses

  1. Fun article,AJ. Thanks for a little wishful thinking.

  2. Phil Bowman is right. The wink and nod monopoly is grounded to filthy wallets in high political places. The NFL gets to run their monopoly with regulatory interference and congestion from dirty politicians, and, there are a BUNCH of filthy politicians who are all too happy to use the NFL as a money laundering operation for their ill gotten filthy lucre. Just as they have with the NCAA’s monopsony control by way of buying and selling politicians for the same purposes.

    A new league to go after Romper Room (NFL) is going to have to be well heeled and willing to “buy in” to politicians. Otherwise they are absolutely doomed to failure. A new league could sell out 30 Ohio Stadium size venues in 30 states every week with higher TV viewership ratings than the Romper Room and won’t mean success at all. Not until they “pay for play” with dirty politicians. Washington, DC and local politicians.are like bed bugs infesting society with a never ending blood lust. In this case that blood is green.

    There IS an option though. Round up every Congress member since 1940 and if they’re not already dead………..arrest them today, try them tomorrow, and execute them the day after tomorrow for treason and for being enemies of the people of these United States.

    The good thing about the second option is that it destroys the mass corruption that IS the NCAA. The people win, monopoly and monopsony are broken and not just football, but America itself is on the path to recovery.

  3. Nice article and tend to agree with it; The other reality is that these leagues need to operate within their fair market share as well. Just like fans don’t pay MLB prices for AAA, AA and A baseball, these leagues should not expect fans to buy $8 sodas, $9 beers and $7 hot dogs and all the other expensive perks of going to a modern day NFL game. For us CLEVE fans, Marty S. did a fabulous job of picking over USFL talent to spring board The Browns into a top tier team.

  4. The reasons people don’t latch on to Spring Pro football are twofold: over saturation that already exists, and quality of product. Heck, even the NFL is barely watchable. To go below that standard is foolhardy- I like my entertainment to be more, well…entertaining.

  5. The USFL was successful right up until they changed their schedule to go head to head with the NFL. The AAF was fun to watch but under funded from the get go. Waiting to see what Mc Mahon can do his second go round.

  6. Josh Perry gave up football after numerous concussions, so why is he on the list.

    The biggest point is the NFL owners, except maybe Robert Craft, are in bed with politicians to keep their illegal monopoly intact.

    Remember the NFL office had to give up its nonprofit status if you don’t believe the part about sleaze being in bed with skeaze

    1. Joshua is on there for my own greed as a fan in wanting to see him around. Granted, as you said, that would likely be better served on the sideline, perhaps as a coordinator on this fictitious pro team. With regards to the monopoly money… yep, hard to imagine anyone ever challenging that. Would still love to see a spring league kick started to give some of these guys a shot (or longer shot) at pro ball, and to give me something more to cheer on in the spring.

Comments are closed.