In a recent interview on FOX 4’s “Free For All,” United Football League (UFL) Head of Football Operations Daryl Johnston shared insights on the league’s inaugural season. The discussion covered the UFL’s viewership and attendance figures, player signings to NFL teams, and Johnston’s thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ current backfield situation.

Attendance Challenges

When asked about the UFL’s first-season performance, Johnston acknowledged some disappointment with attendance numbers:

“I think we were all probably a little bit disappointed, especially in the attendance. The TV numbers are fantastic, and I think that that’s one of the things. I think we were insulated with TV because of the merger coming together late. I think we were an entity for 72 days when we kicked off on our first game. The fact that we were late, the fact that we had competition in the market for people to attend the games was challenging.”

Johnston goes on to say that the UFL owns the responsibility in the attendance problems in the first season. Talks about navigating the spring sports market and Caitlin Clark’s impact.

Getting people to go to the games this year was a bit of a challenge, and I think we need to own a little bit of that because we were late with the merger, we were late with the schedule. There were things that go on. We’re in a very competitive environment. When you talk about spring sports, soccer continues to grow in this country. Caitlin Clark is the phenome that swept the spring athletic scene. There’s a lot of different things out there challenging and competing for eyes.

He also goes on to talk about 2025 and the importance the new Friday Night slot on FOX.

We think that this year we’ll be a better judge because we’re going to be ahead of the curve. We’ve got a longer runway. Let’s stay off of competitive events inside our marketplaces. Let’s get favorable time slots. We are adding a Friday night component to our schedule, and we think that that will lighten the load on the weekend.

UFL to NFL Transitions

Johnston highlighted the success of UFL players signing with NFL teams:

Gareon Conley is a former first-round pick who’s fallen off the radar a little bit. It gives him an opportunity to go out and showcase his skills and get back on everybody’s radar, change the narrative that’s out there about him. Willie Harvey is one of those guys that when you see him, you think he’s small and undersized, and he is not. He’s 230 pounds.”

UFL Player Showcases

Johnston announced upcoming player showcases for the UFL:

We’re going to be bouncing around across the country. The closest one here is going to be July 28th down in Houston, but we’ll be up in the St. Louis area. We’ll be in DC, we’ll be in Atlanta. We’re going to be bouncing around the central part of the country moving east.

Johnston’s interview provided a candid look at the UFL’s first season, highlighting both successes and areas for improvement. It is refreshing to hear leadership be honest and not spin places for improvement.

He discussed the league’s impact on player development and its role as a pathway to the NFL. Johnston also shared valuable insights on the Dallas Cowboys’ current roster situation. The UFL’s commitment to growth is evident in their planned player showcases across the country.

Fans can listen to the full interview on FOX 4’s “Free For All” program for more details on the UFL’s inaugural season and Johnston’s perspectives on professional football.

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author avatar
Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry, a devoted sports journalist and founder of UFL News Hub, has been a key figure in XFL, USFL and UFL coverage since 2018.


  • Posted July 7, 2024 7:47 pm 0Likes
    by Shimmy

    Daryl Johnston, was part of it at San Antonio(AAF) in 2019, 2020 XFL Dallas he was involved, in these two leagues. They both started after the super bowl in February both leagues attendance (at games was better than either 2022,2023 USFL or the 2024 UFL). Fox network those are the facts,” start the season earlier”, people like football there going to watch football. I realize there looking at time slots(TV networks) those are the facts,” start earlier” keep a 10 game schedule 6 of 8 to the playoffs, it is a developmental league. Thank You GO UFL

    • Posted July 8, 2024 3:35 pm 0Likes
      by Ken Granito

      I truly loved everything about the USFL. The problem with the USFL is that players didn’t yet feel comfortable joining the USFL in 2022, because they were afraid the NFL would not accept them back in the NFL, leaving the USFL with a smaller group to choose from. After NFL signings of USFL players after year 1, more players were up for signing with a Spring league. As the XFL was paying more it made more sense to sign there. The leagues were pretty good, though I felt the USFL had the far better coaching, where the XFL held some of the better names. The UFL worked well as it had the payroll of the USFL, which worked with only 8 teams. Moose helped make sure the product was good and that they could still feel the “real” as the commercial said. The lessons the XFL provided allowed for a good Spring opportunity. The thing we need to remember is that football is the best sport. The NFL will own the fall and if the NFL wanted to they would own the Spring too. That stated it is SO much better for them not to fight for the Spring audience. Let the UFL have it. The UFL, however, can’t cry about soccer nor Caitlin Clark. They need to do that by building out their own following. Spring football fans have always been in existence. They need to feel the league is legitimate, however. It is legitimate. Thank you for all those that have helped that. There well plays in the XFL where I laughed at the referees, but this year was closer to what the USFL had in 2023, which is good for football. This league needs to value its stars. As I have said earlier pay them slightly better than what rookies are paid. There is something to that. The UFL has been good in that the teams are almost considered to have signing rights as most players after leaving the league come back to their old teams. That helps with the legacy, but if a team does not even know who their head coach is, how does anyone get onboard with their team. The league is saying they want to market, but first they need a head coach for that, then maybe a few players…and not last years players. Like when Star Wars it was insinuated that Star Wars built new story lines to sell toys, you can’t sell fandom based on uniforms when they don’t even know anything about the team. I understand this can’t be easy, but as soon as they figure that out they will help the league. The original USFL realized signing Hershel Walker would sell seats and it worked. I am not saying to sign expensive talent, but some places you can help your locale. As soon as you can announce Holtz, Nolan and Phillips back in their local. This will inform fans for those teams that legitmate football will be played there. Good luck to the league. Looking forward to learn the positives that go along with the league.

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