Two weeks into the UFL season, it’s apparent to viewers that the UFL’s unique game-altering style is not like watching an NFL game. The pace is faster, the rules differ, the field of play has been reconfigured, and the game atmosphere is unique. This is intentional. When the UFL league was established, the co-owners wanted to create a more exciting, accessible fan experience and they succeeded. In the words of UFL league Co-owner Dany Garcia, “The UFL is all about rule changes and innovation.”

New Rules, New Look

Rather than simply mimicking the way the NFL plays football, the UFL adopted a series of rule changes that address how kickoffs, touchbacks, overtime, and points after a touchdown are governed. While the rule changes are designed with player safety in mind, the primary goal is to promote a fast-paced, action-packed game. The rules also increase the intensity and competitiveness of the game. For example, the UFL eliminated the point after touchdown kick in favor of an incentivized point scale, dependent on where the ball is spotted. The rule keeps the defense off balance and creates a more aggressive style of play. Will the offense opt for the maximum number of points and spot the ball at the 10-yard line, or will they play it safe and try to convert from the 1-yard line?

One of the most exciting rule changes offers an alternative to the rarely successful onside kick. This is a lifeline for teams coming from behind in the final minutes of a close game. Instead of being forced to go with the onside kick after a scoring play, teams are given the option of retaining possession with a fourth down play. The team needs to successfully convert on fourth and twelve from the 28-yard line, which could determine the outcome of a close game.

As we saw this past weekend in the game between the Memphis Showboats and the San Antonio Brahmas, this rule can result in a shocking outcome. After the Showboats thoroughly dominated San Antonio, keeping them scoreless for most of the game, the Brahmas scored a second touchdown with 48 seconds remaining in the game and were down by a score of 19-14. Taking advantage of the 4th and 12 onside kick alternative, the Brahmas converted, and Cody Latimer caught a 10-yard pass from Chase Garbers to win the game, 20-19.

Innovation and Accessibility -The Fan Experience

Another huge change fans can expect from the UFL is the increased accessibility and intimacy of the viewing experience. The “All Access” open microphone allows fans to listen in on the coaches, players, and referees throughout the game. Overhearing the behind-the-scenes communication directly from the mic ‘d-up coaches, QBs, and referees adds an incredible element to the game that allows fans to feel as if they are on the field right beside the team. It’s an opportunity to learn coaching strategy, understand the rationale behind penalty calls, and share in a player’s excitement over a key scoring drive.

It’s also a great way to study contrasting coaching styles throughout the league. Birmingham Stallions Head Coach Skip Holtz has a very quiet and steady manner, as he explains game strategy and wraps an arm around his QB’s shoulder, encouraging him after a muffed play. Employing a different approach, Memphis Showboats Coach John DeFilippo exudes high energy and intensity. Whether issuing play calls to his QB or adamantly calling out an opposing team’s rule violation, DeFilippo aggressively stalks the sidelines, repeating himself over and over, ensuring his message is received. While both coaching styles are equally effective, DeFilippo is more fun to watch. In the closing minutes of Saturday’s game, DeFilippo was overheard scolding his team, “Have some composure men!”

For fans who are new to the UFL, the initial look of the game and its changed appearance might be a bit confusing. However, the thrill of seeing a team come from behind in the closing seconds of the game to emerge victorious, along with the privileged insider view of a coach explaining just why he made a certain play call while the game is underway makes for a truly enjoyable fan experience.

author avatar
Sue Levine
Sue Levine spent the past five years creating and producing a successful weekly health and wellness podcast starring a wonderful iconic woman as the program host. As part of Sue's responsibilities, she scripted every episode and discovered a genuine love of writing. When the podcast ended late last year, she shifted the focus of her writing to covering pro sports. A passionate fan of NFL and UFL football as well as fantasy, she is delighted to be able to share her articles with other football fans.

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