At the midway point of the USFL season, the television ratings have held relatively steady, the gameplay has been solid, and maybe, just maybe, spring football has a shot.
A recent survey done by Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ studied the viability of spring football by asking fans whether they had paid attention to the nascent league and favored its rule changes.
The numbers were positive.
Through four weeks of play (week 5 concluded this past weekend) 64% of avid sports fans and 44% of casual sports fans said they have watched, seen, heard, attended games, or read about the USFL.
“This is a very positive sign for a league finding its footing,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll in a release showing the details.
“The numbers show, once again, that football is king and fans want more. The USFL has recognized that there is a void, and they are filling it.”
And yes, you can bet on USFL games at your favorite sportsbook, but not in Missouri.
What is this new USFL?
This is not the Donald Trump-torpedoed USFL that played in the spring of 1983-1985, although the league operators did play the nostalgia card by giving its eight franchises names from the original incarnation.
The first USFL died when it proposed to move to the fall and compete against the NFL head-to-head. It won a lawsuit alleging a monopoly against the NFL and won three dollars in damages. (Yes, three dollars).
Fox Sports is the main underwriter of the new league, and it has games airing on Fox, NBC and its affiliated channels and apps. The entire 10-week regular season is being played in two stadiums in Birmingham.
As you would expect, Birmingham football fans aren’t turning out to see the Tampa Bay Bandits against the Pittsburgh Maulers, but they have supported the hometown Birmingham Stallions.
The playoffs and finals are slated to take place at Tom Benson Stadium near the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. The players are likely a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of looking to make a name for themselves and get a shot in the NFL.
About the Seton Hall survey
The survey asked 1,514 adults across the US to declare whether they are avid sports fans or casual fans. It then asked about the different rule changes the USFL had adopted. The survey admits a margin of error of 3.2%.
One interesting find by the Seton Hall survey is that the audience leans young for the new spring football league. Of those who have watched the league, the poll shows that:
- 43% are 18-34
- 22% were 35-59
- only 15% were 55 or over
Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik said:
“Maintaining viewers beyond their initial curiosity and building a fan base will be key to the league’s success. Having said that, these are impressive initial numbers for a new league – and the potential viewer demographics align well with the coveted age group for marketing and advertising.”
What about the USFL rule changes?
The Seton Hall survey asked responders about the different rule changes the USFL has implemented to make the games shorter and more competitive, such as:
- The USFL lets teams go for one, two, or three points after a made touchdown
- Teams can get three points by scoring from the 10-yard line
68% of avid fans liked the new rule on extra points and 57% of casual fans also voiced support for that change.
The USFL has also introduced a new concept to overtime, allowing teams to alternate three shots from the two-yard line to settle ties. The team with the most successful scores wins. Think of it like penalty kicks in soccer.
72% of avid fans said they supported that concept, and 54% of regular fans also approved. Through five weeks of the regular season, there have been no overtime games.
Birmingham leads the league with a 5-0 record.