Struggling UFL shuts down Hartford team
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The struggling United Football League announced Wednesday that it will play a shorter season with four teams instead of five with the Hartford, Conn., Colonials suspending operations.
The UFL, which has lost more than $100 million it its first two years, said it will play a condensed regular-season schedule starting Sept. 15. Without Hartford, the second-tier pro league is left with teams in Omaha, Neb., Norfolk, Va., Las Vegas and Sacramento, Calif.
Each team will play six regular-season games instead of eight, with three at home and three on the road. Training camps open Aug. 22 and season openers are Sept. 15-17. The top two teams will play in a championship game.
Hartford players will join surviving UFL teams through a dispersal draft Monday. Hartford coach Jerry Glanville will become a league consultant.
"We are disappointed to have to suspended operations in Hartford and are grateful to the Colonials fans for their support," commissioner Michael Huyghue said in a statement. "We have not closed the door on Hartford and will review the viability of returning to the city at the end of this season."
Huyghue gave no reason for why Hartford was selected for contraction. He was expected to speak with reporters in a Wednesday afternoon teleconference.
The league is made up of players who were cut in NFL training camps, veterans who want to get back to the NFL and free agents. Players earn about $40,000 a season.
The UFL said last month that it would push back the start of the season a month, fueling speculation that the league would fold. Huyghue has said the UFL needs an injection of new revenue or a partnership with the NFL to survive beyond this year.
The UFL's majority owners are Bill Hambrecht, Paul Pelosi and Bill Mayer. Huyghue said the league projected that it would lose money the first three years, but not at this rate. The $100 million in losses was far greater than Huyghue had reported previously.
The league had pinned its turnaround hopes in 2011 on a long NFL lockout. The UFL originally planned to start its season in August, with the idea of landing a revenue-producing television contract that would put UFL games in time slots normally reserved for NFL preseason games.
Huyghue said he tried unsuccessfully to negotiate deals with CBS and TNT. When it became apparent last month that the lockout was ending, Huyghue announced that the UFL would scrap its plan to start in August and revert to its normal September kickoff.
UFL spokesman Michael Preston said games would be carried on HDNet and regional sports networks. Versus had televised games last season, but the league had to pay production costs. Versus was not listed as a TV partner in a news release issued by the league Wednesday.
The season will open Sept. 15 with the Virginia Destroyers visiting the Omaha Nighthawks. The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Locomotives visit the Sacramento Mountain Lions on Sept. 17.
Huyghue said in the statement that the mid-September start date will allow UFL teams to sign players who are in NFL camps but don't make final rosters. He said the shorter season will allow NFL teams to sign UFL players earlier than in the past.