Key Points:

  • Rebranding Focus: The UFL is shifting its message to emphasize the high talent level within the league and its sustainable future post-merger.
  • Operational Enhancements: Addressing logistical challenges, especially venue availability and scheduling, is a priority to improve fan experience.
  • Sports Betting Integration: The UFL commits to transparency and accurate game day reporting, recognizing its importance to the sports betting community.

In a comprehensive interview on “The Markcast,” Daryl Johnston, President of Football Operations for the United Football League (UFL). He talks about the level of talent in the league, the 2024 schedule, how they could go back to the XFL style kick-off, going with the Houston Roughnecks name over the Gamblers, injury information for betting and more.

New Messaging and Talent Emphasis

Johnston revealed the league’s intent to shift its messaging focus from being seen merely as a developmental opportunity to highlighting the talent within the league and the sustainability of spring football. The branding tone will be different from what we saw with the XFL in 2023.

“I think one of the things that we’ve started to have conversations is what do we want our new messaging to be? We do want to move off of the developmental component. We want to get away from the opportunity component. We want to talk about the talent of the players that are in this league. We want to talk about the sustainability of spring football now that these two leads have joined together and have elevated the talent that we’re going to see. Going to all the various town halls During the course of the build up to the season, we talked about the level of talent in this league … but spring football that you have seen in other iterations, this will be the best talent that if you’re a fan of spring football, you will have seen in recent history.”

Logistical Challenges and Venue Availability

The UFL President discussed the logistical challenges faced by the league, particularly the issue of venue availability and the timing of ticket sales. He emphasized the importance of early planning in 2025 to alleviate these issues. The United Football league has only existed for 60 plus days, next season will be better.

“Yeah, I think the big thing is just getting our calendar set, getting venue availability set, being able to get our schedule set. That allows us to release ticket sales earlier. That’s been one of the harder things. I think single game tickets went on sale in Detroit five days ago. So it has been challenging. So just having all the elements that we can control next year, going into the offseason and making sure that we are checking boxes as soon as we possibly can so we can lighten that burden on the back end of it. And one of the hardest things was venue availability and scheduling. Coming down to the wire this year based on how we were going to pull this off. So that’s something that we’ll be way ahead of the curve with. That way we can start to talk to our fans about what the games are going to be in market.”

Scheduling and Competition with Major Events

Johnston touched upon the delicate balance of scheduling the UFL season in relation to other major sports events, highlighting the necessity of finding a start date that avoids direct competition with events like the NCAA tournament and the Masters. The start date could change again in 2025.

“I think that that’s another one of the big items that will be up for discussion. I think it was a necessity this year to push it back a little bit. We didn’t want to get it too far back. We were always talking about trying to find that happy medium in between legacy XFL and legacy USFL when you talk about start dates. This slotted that. We’re still having conversations about some of those iconic sports events that we would be in direct competition transition with depending on the start date. How do we feel about going up against the NCAA tournament when that goes into full swing? How do we feel about being on the same weekend as the masters? So there’s some things there that we have to talk about. But again, with the trust And the belief in the league and then the support from the fans and the viewers, that really helps us to have some honest conversations there.”

Traditional Football Aesthetics and Special Teams

The UFL President clarified his stance on the league’s game aesthetics, particularly focusing on the USFL style kick off verses the XFL, which the NFL is looking at adopting in 2024.

“Yeah, I don’t think I ever said it. I said we wanted a more traditional look. I don’t think I ever said it doesn’t look like real football if I did. That was not my intent. I would never disparage anybody. I think what we talked about is it looked more like traditional football, which we wanted. We wanted movement at the kick. And for us, that was not the selling point. That was not the huge one. The biggest thing for us is really looking at what do special teams provide for our players.

Now, with all this conversation about the NFL potentially adopting what the XFL did, that does change things. But what we will do is we will continue to move forward with the plan that we had in place. And if at any point, if injuries start to become an issue on our style kickoff, we will make a change.

And I think that that’s one of the things that we’ve demonstrated From Legacy USFL, we had other situations during the course of our first two years where there were issues.

And we’re not… Again, check your ego at the door. We tried something, it didn’t work. Let’s move off of it. We listen to the input from our players all the time. So we want to be stewards of the game that do it the right way.

Sometimes we make a decision, and it may not be the right one, but this was something that we felt was very important. There were other ones that the XFL felt was very important, and we steered their way.”

Team Identity and the Roughnecks Moniker

Johnston discussed the decision-making process behind team identities, specifically the choice of the “Roughnecks” moniker for the Houston team over the Gamblers.

“The Roughnecks moniker is something that I think resonates a little bit more when you talk about the city of Houston and the surrounding area and what the oil industry has meant to that community. I think there’s a connection there. So we really felt that it would be good to go with the Roughnecks as opposed to the Gamblers. And then we wanted to make sure that there was balance in how we were bringing in staff. So it was really, okay, Curtis, You’re going to have your staff, your roster in place as you move forward. But we’re going to bring the XFL moniker and color scheme over to you.”

Sports Betting and Game Day Reporting

Highlighting the importance of transparency and accurate information, Johnston spoke about the league’s approach to sports betting in 2024, emphasizing the need for timely and reliable game day status reports to support the sports betting community.

“I think we really tried to stay to the NFL timeline when you get into the game day status report and then the active, inactive report as we’re leading up to the game. We know how important that information is to the sports betting fan community. So we know we have to be spot on. And that’s why we challenged everybody how important this information is to be kept close to the vest within the league until it’s supposed to be released. So you’ll probably see be something that’s more USFL than you saw from XFL last year.”

The conversation with Daryl Johnston on “The Markcast” provided insights into the league’s rebranding efforts to focus on talent and the sustainability of spring football, logistical challenges including venue availability and ticket sales, scheduling complexities, accurate game day reporting for the sports betting community and more. This interview is for the hardcore UFL fans who have followed the XFL and USFL for a long time. Reid hits on some of the points fans have wanted to know for some time.

Fans looking to delve deeper into Johnston’s vision and the league’s direction can listen to the full interview on “The Markcast,” available on major podcast streaming platforms.

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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.

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