Exclusive: Here Are Plans For A New Professional Football League, Run By Former NFL, XFL, And USFL Executives

Illustration for article titled Exclusive: Here Are Plans For A New Professional Football League, Run By Former NFL, XFL, And USFL Executives

The document below is a November confidential summary obtained by Deadspin of something called the Spring Professional Football League, which presents itself as a non-hostile NFL alternative, to be built on the bones of the several leagues that have tried and failed before.

According to its own forecasts, the SPFL, whose management includes a number of former XFL and NFL Europe executives, will debut in 2013 with eight teams playing a 14- to 16-week season. The summary lists the cities under consideration as New York, Washington, Memphis, Orlando, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Teams would be centrally owned by the league, a la Major League Soccer.

You can read the full summary for yourself at the bottom of the post. Keep in mind that the document is intended to goose investment; the numbers are projections, and rosy ones at that. It's not clear where things stand with the league today. If the SFPL were hewing to its timeline, we should expect a league unveiling sometime this month. A call to the SPFL's CEO, Mark E. Singleton, was not returned.


With the exception of Singleton, a former accountant at KPMG whose CV has him both investing in Mongolian mining and running a non-profit, non-partisan, largely non-existent Internet forum for public policy debate, the SPFL's management has been pulled from the NFL and the wreckage of its old competitors. The president and chief operating officer is Michael F. Keller, a former Michigan linebacker and defensive end who was drafted by Dallas in 1972 and who went on to become, in his words, "a start-up guru." Keller has worked with the Cowboys, the Seahawks, the NFL League Office, NFL Europe, and the USFL. He was reportedly the first hire at the XFL—the league founded by WWF owner Vince McMahon that lasted only one unruly season—where he served as vice president for football operations. (And he's the father of former Nebraska and Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller, who in 2009 sued the NCAA and EA Sports over the use of his likeness in video games.)

In addition, the SPFL's vice president of football operations, William C. Baker Jr., is a former NFL scout who has worked with the USFL, the Arena Football League, and the XFL. The assistant to the president, David A. Rahn, has done front-office stints in the NFL, the USFL, and the MLS. The director of cheerleading, Jay Howarth, was in charge of XFL cheerleading, which is just about all anyone remembers of the XFL anyway.

The summary invokes those defunct leagues—under the header "Learning From the Past"—and offers a few "reasons for failure." One of them is, "Directly competing with the NFL in the fall or for talent," suggesting the SPFL has no plans to do either. (That's ultimately what did in the USFL, the last real threat to the NFL's monopoly.)

I sent the summary to sports economists Roger Noll and Rodney Fort to get their take on the league's viability. They weren't nearly as optimistic as the proposal's authors. Fort called it a "cute document," full of "pie-in-the-sky plans" and a lot of "what-ifs." Noll wrote in an email: "My overall assessment is that this is XFL redux without the pizzazz and the McMahon baggage, but with all of the other flaws." We'll have more of their analysis later.


Spring Professional Football League: Confidential Summary, November 2011 [Download as PDF]


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Smoak on the Water

Fort called it a "cute document," full of "pie-in-the-sky plans"

He's rested, he's ready, it's COMEBACK TIME