Semi-Pro Football Concept

Submitted by 1464 on July 6th, 2010 at 2:53 PM

After seeing a number of lower quality professional football leagues flounder and fail, I've thought of a concept that I think would work.  This topic is just for discussion, this hasn't been debated or kicked around in any real sense.  It is just an idea that I think would be pretty cool.

Instead of creating a league in the sense of the NFL, a fledgling league would have to think outside the lines.  This concept has been tried, as arena football and the XFL have both skewed the general rules to produce slightly different products.  My concept wouldn't alter any in-game rules, but would address the management side of the sport.  Why not create a 'professional college football league.'

Before you neg bomb me for such a weird idea, here is how it would work.  Each professional team would only have access to its corresponding school's former players.  One would comprise the league of 10-16 teams.  These teams would mirror the colleges with the largest fan bases.  EMU would not be offered a team.  That would leave professional teams based in or around Austin, Ann Arbor (Detroit), Columbus, Gainesville (Jacksonville), and a handful other cities.

There are some obvious drawbacks to this.  It would invariably be challenged by Orrin Hatch for discriminating against his poor former Utah players who would be unfairly denied employment.  Even then, if the courts would sign off on it, there would still be the NFL hawking all the good players.  However, this would actually level out the playing field.  You may not see a pass from Brady to Edwards, but you would still get to see a pass from Henson to Terrell or Navarre to Bellamy.  You may even be able to pick off low level NFL guys by offering more money and playing time. 

If the top 20 college programs all had corresponding teams, the talent level would be pretty even.  The product on the field would be somewhere between great college ball and bad pro ball.  Because the talent level would be higher than arena football or the NFL Europe, there would be a real incentive for low level guys to display their wares on this stage.

Another glaring issue would be free agency and contract disputes.  Because players couldn't trade teams, ownership would have free reign over chopping salaries.  For this reason, some sort of minimum pay scale would need to be initiated on a position by position basis, with standardized performance bonuses for players who produce well.

The upside is there as well.  I could name 20 locations where there would be a fanbase that ranged from very strong to ravenous.  This would translate to TV viewership and, if ticket prices were moderate, fuller stadiums.  There would be no John Doe from East Carolina State College of Agriculture - Greenville.  The players would all have name recognition value.  Who wouldn't want to see a former Michigan LB destroy Maurice Clarett?

Anyway, this is nothing to take serious, just a cool concept that I think deserves a closer look by people who make way more money than I...



July 6th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

If their season were to go from Apr-Aug, I would totally watch it. The championship game could even be played at the university stadium of one of the two finalists. Tell me you wouldnt go to the Big House to watch these guys again!


July 6th, 2010 at 3:28 PM ^

Once I put more thought into it, the NCAA would probably frown on it as well.  The 10-20 teams who have these professional entities tied to them would have a huge recruiting advantage over the other teams.  I'm not sure there is anything the NCAA could do except bar them from their stadiums.  This would pay out for Michigan though, and would probably be another thing Little Brother would complain about...

I like the spring season idea as well, don't compete with the NCAA or NFL.  I think the AAFL (All American Football League) tried this approach.  However, I haven't heard from that league since its inception.


July 6th, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

I highly doubt they have any leverage at all over how university facilties are used (rock concerts et al already occur don't they?)

Recruiting advantage will exist but again NCAA could do didly squat about it.

The biggest hurdle would actually be the Equal Opportunity Laws, but I am sure there are ways around that as well.For example, the league could always create a " Also rans" team where any player could play.

This will absolutely work if a bunch of businessmen with cahoneys put their mind to it. If they end up with idiots like Trump as the owner, it will be a colossal fail.


July 6th, 2010 at 3:46 PM ^

I think the better course would be to argue that the school specific rosters are integral to the business model.  Let's face it, I am not working at Hooter's or Deja Vu at any point.  One could argue that the front office positions are available to everybody, just as the position of cook or bouncer would be available at the fine establishments listed above...

If you established a team of also rans, there is a good chance they dominate the league due to a huge pool of talent to work with.

kevin holt

July 6th, 2010 at 6:08 PM ^

I think you would have to let other schools in, if the team so chooses to get the guys. Like if EMU or Central, maybe even MSU have a good player that's not NFL-worthy, the team in our area could pick them up. It would be like the team covers a certain region, and any college in that region is eligible.

No way would it work just having one school to each program. Just not happening. But a region? Maybe...

This might work better as not a full-schedule league but a tournament or something... for charity perhaps?

Sorry to burst any bubbles, I like the idea, I'm just being honest. What do you think if it was a region system instead? It would probably get more support.


July 6th, 2010 at 3:52 PM ^

Just posting in this thread makes me feel like I am hitting on the last fattie in the bar at last call.  Am I so desperate for a football slumpbuster that I will partcipate...  No disrespect intended to the OP as clever as this idea might be we are truly reaching here.


July 6th, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

No disrespect taken.  If I had dreams of this becoming a reality, I'd be pointlessly trying to reach out to people who make a lot of money and have no interest in listening to me, not posting my plan in a message board where any number of faceless people could steal it.  This idea is just good old fashioned water cooler talk...


July 6th, 2010 at 3:50 PM ^

This would make it hard to claim the University's athletic department should qualify for tax-exempt status.  That in turn, would doom this to failure.  Tax exemption saves the AD a ginormous amount of money, which the university probably wouldn't be able to make back running a semi pro league.


July 6th, 2010 at 4:50 PM ^

This was the original idea of the United Football Leauge.  You would have a Detroit filled with Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern, Western etc.  


July 6th, 2010 at 5:28 PM ^

In fact, I bet hundreds of thousands of people like me would watch it on a weekly basis. If you've got a tv market out there, then there's potential to make some money. The potential to make tons of cash makes this idea viable.  Even if you just had a team for the top football states in America and only had 12 teams for the league, it would be interesting.  If/when the NFL expands to 18 games, they will need a league to draw on when their stars start to get hurt before the playoffs start.

Who out there has a few million to invest in a great new idea???


July 6th, 2010 at 8:11 PM ^

What you are describing is really a "pro" league with sub NFL quality players. Players are "pro" when the sport is their chief source of income.  

I love all football. but I cannot stand the term "semi pro." Some of this goes back to listening grad school class mates who played second string at Albion describe their beer league as "semi-pro."  It is also rooted in the fact that "semi-pro" could qualify as anything from a very good flag league to NFL Europe, based on who you ask.  

I had a friend who made and played on the "Lions Practice Squad" in 1993. He described himself as "semi-pro".  This I feels like a semi pro scenario because the players on the practice squad are sometimes brought up to NFL teams. (See Kircus)  Throwing on pads and playing in a Thursday night league, does not feel Semi-pro.   

The point is semi-pro" is a vague term.  Teams that play in "semi pro" leagues the mid continental football league may call themselves Semi-Pro, but they are really club teams of adults who play in pads.  When you look at these teams next to a NFL Europe team,  or a league like the one described above the teams cannot match up.

There are millions of mens basketball leagues in the country that refer to themselves as "Adult Leagues" and guys at work say, "I play in an adult league on Thursday."  For some reason, men of the same age who play in an evening football league with pads say, "I play on a semi-pro team."  It has never made sense to me.