The financially troubled United Football League is still open for business, Commissioner Michael Huyghue said Tuesday, citing three reasons for delaying the season for approximately one month.
Respected coach Marty Schottenheimer, meeting with the Hampton Roads media Tuesday afternoon, remains committed to the Virginia Destroyers.
Financial issues delayed the start of camp, however. The league decided to send its players home for several weeks and bring them back next month. The UFL's third season will run approximately the same time as its first two seasons, from mid-September until late November.
During a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Huyghue gave three reasons for the delay: The league thought the NFL lockout would give them exclusivity, there are outstanding financial issues and the UFL needs to lock up several investors to generate more revenue.
Huyghue said current owners will spend $100 million for the first two years of the league, but they're not prepared to sign on beyond this year with those kinds of losses.
Asked if the league would partner with the NFL, Huyghue said If the labor situation was settled on Thursday, "i'd probably be in their offices on Friday." He called a partnership "a natural fit"
He said there are three big ticket expenses and issues: Workmen's compensation costs, lack of a television deal with rights fees and travel. The league is spending more than $2 million a year on charter flights, trying to duplicate the NFL experience for players and coaches
Said Huyghue: "it's frustrating but I know that I believe in the mission of what the league is doing."
Earlier in the day, he said "We originally moved up our season to meet fan demand during the slow month of August. "We felt, and still feel, that playing meaningful games in August would benefit the UFL. Unfortunately, the uncertainty gripping pro sports, given the NFL and NBA lockouts, created a destabilizing impact throughout the industry. Ultimately, this delayed our ability to secure television agreements and other business-related matters."
The UFL and several of its franchises have had troubles since inception two years ago, nearly all of which are related to money. The league is expected to operate at a $40 million deficit in 2011.
UFL founder and owner Bill Hambrecht said in the release: "Our ownership group is committed to funding our 2011 season. Uncertainty and instability in professional sports notwithstanding, we believe fully in our investment, our product and the UFL mission."
The league has not been able to secure a major TV deal, which would have helped cash flow. League officials held discussions with CBS and TNT, but no agreements were reached.
Games have been broadcast on the Versus network and on HDNet, which again are expected to televise games. The UFL footed the bill for production costs related to Versus broadcasts.
Locally, the Destroyers have been unable to bring in temporary bleachers that will expand the Virginia Beach Sportsplex, the team's home, because of a lack of funds. Team officials say that the delayed start of the season will permit them to secure the money needed to rent and place the bleachers.
One unforeseen expense to the league was related to the Hartford Colonials -- a $7 million jump in workers' compensation insurance in Connecticut from 2010. According to the Hartford Courant, the Colonials received an inquiry from the state attorney general's office about failure to have the insurance in place, which is a violation of state law.
That forced the team to cancel a planned mini-camp for last week and ultimately delayed the start of training camp..