A Renegade Football League

Though it has become apparent that it’s pretty tough to succeed with a U.S. football league not called the NFL (or college football), I still think it’s fun to consider a renegade league. You know, when it’s not my finances on the line. Below is an idea of what my renegade league would look like …

 

 


 

 


 

 


CONFERENCE 1

NORTHEASTERN DIVISION
Columbus (OH) Tigers
Grand Rapids Colonials
Hartford Charter Oaks
Louisville Breckenridges (Brecks)
Milwaukee Badgers
Rochester Jeffersons
Primary Rivalry Games: MIL vs. GR, LOU vs. COL, ROC vs. HFD

SOUTHEASTERN DIVISION
Birmingham Americans
Greenville Rabbits
Norfolk Neptunes
Orlando Renegades
Raleigh-Durham Aeros
Richmond Rebels
Primary Rivalry Games: ORL vs. BRM, GRN vs. RD, RIC vs. NOR

CONFERENCE 2:

CENTRAL DIVISION
Arkansas Miners
Jackson (MS) Generals
Memphis Bulldogs
Oklahoma (City) Outlaws
Omaha Mustangs
Shreveport Steamers
Primary Rivalry Games: MEM vs. ARK, BIR vs. SHR, OK vs. OMA

WESTERN DIVISION
Albuquerque Wolves
Las Vegas Stars
Portland Loggers
Sacramento Capitols
Salt Lake Gulls
San Antonio Wings
Primary Rivalry Games: ABQ vs. SA, LV vs. SLC, PRT vs. SAC


Firstly, I wouldn’t have ANY franchises in cities that already have NFL franchises. I don’t care how many people live in said city. Chicagoans, for example, are simply not going to pay attention to a new pro team not called the Chicago Bears. End of story.

A league would have to exist in the largest of the U.S. cities without franchises, and whenever possible should focus on cities that are geographically farthest from the NFL franchised cities.

Secondly, I think this league would have to rely on grassroots growth vs. lucrative broadcast deals that would likely not come for a long time for the startup. The best way to do that? Focus on the fan experience at the games themselves and on integration within the cities chosen to have franchises.

Have you ever been to a minor league game in any sport that is played in a big league team’s stadium? It’s absolutely depressing. Even when a decent sheer number of fans are in attendance, they are spread out and accentuate vacant seats — the place FEELS empty. A startup league shouldn’t be delusional and think it is going to draw 40,000+ people to a game. It’s just not going to happen. Stadiums need to have capacities between 8,000 – 15,000 like most AAA baseball stadiums. This would allow for a more intimate game watching experience.

I think the NFL has gotten to the point where it is a better experience to watch the game at home on television than it is to see in person. Tickets are hard to come by at face value — fans wind up having to shell out twice as much to some scumbag scalping company. Concessions are obscene. Traffic getting to and from monolith stadiums on the outskirts of the cities is invariably terrible.

A startup league should use this as a point of differential. Tailgating needs to be promoted and accommodated for as much as possible, and on site concessions need to be priced more affordably. Each team’s playing field should exist within its city’s limits and coexist harmoniously within its urban area. Further, the perimeters of the stadium properties need to not only be thought of as active on game days. Restaurants and bars that help accommodate tailgaters should be open year round to help keep the stadium grounds be a constant destination. Green spaces need to be prominent parts of the plans to avoid endless parking lot eyesores.

Thirdly, an upstart league like this should play the vast majority of its games within its divisions. It would save on travel costs, help establish regional rivalries and generate increased interest in the unknown matchup of the eventual championship game. I’m thinking a 12-game regular season — each team plays the other teams within its division twice (covering 10 games), with two games each season against two different interconference opponents.

As noted in the divisional breakdowns above, there will be an established primary rivalry game within each division. I think it would help the upstart league if each primary rivalry game was played on the same week — like a sweeps week — twice per season. For casual fans who are open to familiarizing themselves with the league, these two sweeps weeks become the most compelling weeks to watch.

Lastly, each franchise should incorporate as many players from regional universities as possible. It gives the local fan base another reason to feel invested in its team.

And although I don’t think this league can bank on having any kind of big broadcast deal, it would still be smart to ensure the markets in which it will be present are set up as solid TV markets.

TEAM CITY METRO POP METRO POP RANK TV MARKET TV MARKET RANK
Orlando Renegades FL, Orlando 2.32 mil 26 1.473 mil 18
Sacramento Capitols CA, Sacramento 2.24 mil 27 1.346 mil 20
Portland Loggers OR, Portland 2.35 mil 24 1.154 mil 23
Raleigh-Durham Aeros NC, Raleigh-Durham 1.24 mil 46 1.136 mil 25
Hartford Charter Oaks CT, Hartford 1.21 mil 47 0.945 mil 30
Columbus Tigers OH, Columbus 1.99 mil 32 0.914 mil 32
San Antonio Wings TX, San Antonio 2.33 mil 25 0.912 mil 33
Salt Lake Gulls UT, Salt Lake City 1.15 mil 48 0.897 mil 34
Milwaukee Badgers WI, Milwaukee 1.57 mil 39 0.882 mil 35
Greenville Rabbits SC, Greenville 0.86 mil 63 0.842 mil 37
Grand Rapids Colonials MI, Grand Rapids 1.03 mil 52 0.718 mil 41
Las Vegas Stars NV, Las Vegas 2.07 mil 30 0.719 mil 41
Norfolk Neptunes VA, Norfolk 1.72 mil 37 0.714 mil 42
Birmingham Americans AL, Birmingham 1.14 mil 49 0.710 mil 43
Oklahoma Outlaws OK, Oklahoma City 1.34 mil 42 0.704 mil 44
Albuquerque Wolves NM, Albuquerque 0.90 mil 59 0.679 mil 47
Louisville Brecks KY, Louisville 1.27 mil 43 0.657 mil 49
Memphis Bulldogs TN, Memphis 1.34 mil 41 0.654 mil 50
Arkansas Miners AR, Little Rock 0.73 mil 75 0.555 mil 56
Richmond Rebels VA, Richmond 1.26 mil 44 0.549 mil 57
Omaha Mustangs NE, Omaha 0.90 mil 60 0.413 mil 74
Rochester Jeffersons NY, Rochester 1.08 mil 51 0.393 mil 78
Shreveport Steamers LA, Shreveport 0.45 mil 114 0.368 mil 83
Jackson Generals MS, Jackson 0.58 mil 93 0.320 mil 95

The following are some of the notable alternative failed professional football leagues in the U.S. You’ll notice I plucked quite a few of the better team names. I think it’s nice to have somewhat of an historical reference for a franchise whenever possible.

Continental Football League (1965-1969)

Akron Vulcans, Alabama Hawks, Arkansas Diamonds, Brooklyn Dodgers, Charleston Rockets, Chicago Owls, Dallas Rockets, Eugene Bombers, Fort Wayne Warriors, Fort Worth Braves, Hartford Charter Oaks, Indianapolis Capitols*, Jersey Jays, Las Vegas Cowboys, Long Beach Admirals, Mexico Golden Aztecs, Michigan Arrows, Montreal Beavers, Newark Bears, Norfolk Neptunes, Oklahoma Thunderbirds, Oklahoma City Plainsmen, Omaha Mustangs, Orange County Ramblers, Orlando Panthers, Philadelphia Bulldogs, Providence/Rhode Island Indians, Quad Cities Raiders, Richmond Rebels, Sacramento Buccaneers/Capitols, San Antonio Toros, San Jose Apaches, Seattle Rangers*, Spokane Shockers, Springfield Acorns, Texarkana Titans, Toronto Rifles, Tri-City Apollos, Victoria Steelers, West Texas Rufneks, Wheeling/Ohio Valley Ironmen

World Football League (1974-1975)

Birmingham Americans/Vulcans, Chicago Fire/Winds, Detroit Wheels, Washington-Baltimore/Virginia Ambassadors, Florida Blazers, San Antonio Wings, The Hawaiians, Houston Texans, Shreveport Steamer, Jacksonville Sharks/Express*, Memphis Southmen/Grizzlies, Boston Bulls, New York Stars, Charlotte Stars*, Philadelphia Bell, Portland Storm/Thunder, Southern California Sun

USFL (1982-1987)

Arizona Wranglers/Outlaws*, Birmingham Stallions, Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers, Chicago Blitz, Denver Gold, Houston Gamblers, Jacksonville Bulls*, Los Angeles Express, Memphis Showboats, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Oakland Invaders*, Oklahoma Outlaws, Philadelphia/Baltimore* Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, San Antonio Gunslingers, Tampa Bay Bandits, Washington Federals, Orlando Renegades

XFL (2001)

Birmingham Thunderbolts, Chicago Enforcers, Las Vegas Outlaws, Los Angeles Xtreme*, Memphis Maniax, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Orlando Rage, San Francisco Demons

United Football League (2009-2012)

Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials, Las Vegas Locomotives, Omaha Nighthawks, Sacramento Mountain Lions, Virginia Destroyers

BOLD = NFL also has a franchise in that city

*Note: No NFL team existed in these cities at the time of league existence, despite these cities later gaining NFL franchises.

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