In a scene straight out of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the United Football League's founder and one team's president is desperately pleading that the UFL is not dead, while the vast majority of the rest of the planet is playing the role of John Cleese's character, confidently proclaiming, "You'll be stone dead in a moment ... you're not fooling anyone, you know."
As best as I can piece together, it indeed appears that the UFL isn't quite dead yet. But is it actually alive?
The 2011 Season
It's pretty universally known what happened during the UFL's 2011 season. After an eight-week season involving five teams in 2010, the league added a sixth team--the Virginia Destroyers. The Destroyers immediately went into a state of turmoil, seeing their owner, general manager, and head coach all leave before the 2011 season even began.
While this was going on, the Florida Tuskers folded. In essence, the Tuskers then became the Destroyers.
Then the Hartford Colonials went belly up, reducing the team total to four. The 2011 season was delayed in starting, then it was cut short after just three games, with a comically titled "championship" game being played between the two best teams while the two worst teams played each other for ... um ... no apparent reason.
In the offseason, the commissioner left, bills and salaries remained unpaid, and basically, the whole thing was a total train wreck.
No official word ever came from the UFL that they had gone the way of the XFL, the USFL, the WLAF, and countless other professional football leagues not named the NFL, but given the catastrophe that was the 2011 season, the writing was on the wall.
A 2012 Season?
On February 29, 2012, Tom Robinson of the Virginian-Pilot reported that the Destroyers were moving out of their office space in Virginia Beach that was costing them $7,000 a month in rent.
"We are not closing shop," the team's director of marketing and sales, John Castleberry, told Robinson at the time. "We're just relocating to a smaller space until we devise our game plan for the 2012 season."
Uh huh. Right. This, coming from the team who's website wasn't functional at the time because they hadn't paid the bill. That sort of thing inspires all kinds of confidence in the ability to play a season of football in 2012, doesn't it?
But then a little over a week later, word came from Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the UFL isn't done yet. It may have lost $120 million over its first three seasons, it may have taken months to pay its staff and players, it may still be $1.2 million in debt, and it may not have a commissioner or any office space, but by gum, not only is the UFL going to play in 2012, it's also going to expand, according to its founder, Bill Hambrecht, who also owns the Las Vegas Locomotives.
"We're moving forward," Hambrecht told Carp back in early April. "We fully expect to play."
How on Earth can a football league in such a state of chaos actually expand into San Antonio, southern California, or Portland, Ore.?
As it turns out, it may be getting a life preserver thrown to it in the form of a television contract, rumored (but not confirmed) to be with the CBS Sports Network. An announcement was expected around May 1, Hambrecht told Carp.
The promise of a 2012 UFL season was still being made in mid-April, according to another article by Robinson, despite a $3.1 million lawsuit that had been filed against the league. At the time of Robinson's April 17 article, an official announcement was still expected at the beginning of May.
An article the next day by Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal also mentioned that an official announcement was expected to be made by May 1.
Well, May 1 came and went.
No official announcement. No rescheduling of the announcement. No reasoning given for the delay in the announcement. Just silence.
Hello? Anyone Home? Anyone?
On May 4, Robinson reported that the Destroyers are still planning to play in 2012. New team president John Wuehrmann indicated to Robinson that Virginia would play an eight-game schedule beginning in September and that the team is working on bringing Bret Munsey back as an assistant coach and director of player personnel.
"Bret was critical to our success last year," Wuehrmann told Robinson in the article. "He's constantly connected to the people who represent football players."
Munsey is currently the head coach of the Orlando Predators in the Arena Football League. The Predators currently sit at 1-7 on the season and sport the second-worst offense in the league. One of the oldest and proudest franchises in the Arena Football League, the Predators' streak of 19 consecutive playoff appearances is in serious jeopardy this year, leaving many to wonder how long Munsey will be allowed to remain Orlando's head coach.
The Virginia Destroyers may have access to Munsey sooner than they originally planned.
In that May 4 piece by Robinson, Wuehrmann didn't want to say too much, citing a pending league announcement about a possible television deal.
More than a week has now passed since Robinson's latest work. The UFL remains silent.
Nothing has been updated on the UFL's website since November of 2011, and I scoured the Internet looking for crumbs of information, turning up empty. The league's Twitter account (@theUFL) has been silent since January. The league's Facebook page was still active in April but doing nothing more than regurgitating published news stories.
Will the UFL play football in 2012, or will it finally receive the Pythonesque blow to back of the head that finishes it off?
I suppose we'll just have to continue to wait and see.
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