FLORHAM PARK, N.J.-- The USFL is back in business.
A reincarnation of the league, with an entirely different business model, plans to kick off in March. On Thursday, it included Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff among its advisers.
Biletnikoff will consult on football operations for the league, which originally went out of business in 1987 after losing millions of dollars and, despite winning a lawsuit against the NFL, being awarded just $3 in indemnities. That version unwisely chose to challenge the NFL, while this one will be more of a developmental league.
"We will not try to compete with the NFL at all," said CEO Jaime Cuadra after adding Biletnikoff and James Bailey, an executive for the Cleveland Browns and then the Baltimore Ravens for 21 years, to the USFL's board of advisers. The board will be responsible for guiding USFL management on various areas of operations, eventually focusing on a search for the league's commissioner.
"We will play in markets where there are no NFL teams or major league baseball teams. It's a league for guys who are on the bubble for making NFL teams, and we will have complete open access for the NFL. We want to build a model that is sustainable."
The USFL is looking at a 14-game season from March until June in eight cities. Its players would then be free to join NFL clubs at their training camps.
All player and coach contracts will be owned by the league, with salaries not approaching anything the NFL offers.
Cities currently being considered are Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio or Austin, Texas; Columbus or Akron, Ohio; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Memphis, Tenn.
"These are cities with underutilized facilities at that time of year," Cuadra said.
Nearly all of them also have avid college football followings, something the USFL hopes to draw from. Cuadra said regional draft picks would be used so that, say, a player who attended Oregon or Oregon State would wind up with a Portland franchise.
One critical item the USFL has only begun to investigate is a television partner. The UFL, which finished its third season in the fall of 2011 with five teams, has struggled to find a TV audience.
Of course, it plays its games during the NFL schedule. The USFL will avoid such dead-end conflicts.
"We have nothing lined up yet, and we are doing our research and investigating the landscape of sports television today, which is ever-changing," Cuadra said.
Also advising the new USFL is Jim Steeg, who spent 35 years in the NFL, is a former COO of the San Diego Chargers, and was the league's main organizers of the Super Bowl for 26 years as senior vice president of special events.