The following is a contribution by Josh Corriveau, 2L Student at University of Florida Levin College of Law, Chairman: 2014 UF Law Sports Law Symposium, President: UF Law Entertainment & Sports Law Society (EASLS).
The success of the NBA Development League (“D-League”) has prompted a new developmental league for football, the “National Spring Football League” (“NSFL”). The NSFL hopes to establish a feeder system for the NFL and the Canadian Football League (“CFL”).
The NSFL’s business model is a blast from the past. The league acknowledges its predecessor, the United States Football League (“USFL”) that commenced in the early 1980’s and that developed the likes of Herschel Walker, Steve Young, and Jim Kelly.
The inaugural NSFL season kicks off in Spring 2014 with the league’s 12 teams. According to the NSFL’s website, www.thensfl.com, the league plans to expand to 16 teams for Spring 2015. Currently, the NSFL teams include:
- Arizona Racers of Phoenix, AZ
- Boston Freedom Fighters of Boston, MA (venue in Lawrence, MA)
- Florida Tide of St. Petersburg, FL
- Georgia Blaze of Atlanta, FL
- Kentucky Thoroughbreds of Frankfort, KY
- Los Angeles Xplosion of Los Angeles, CA (venue in Glendora, CA)
- Mexico East (no information available at this time)
- Mexico West (no information available at this time)
- Ohio Pride of Columbus, OH (venue in Dublin, OH)
- San Antonio Defenders of San Antonio, TX
- San Jose Rush of San Jose, CA (venue in San Jose, CA)
- Texas Heatseekers of Houston, TX (venue in Sugarland, TX)
Future Spring 2015 Expansion
- Alabama Steel of Mobile, AL
- Los Vegas Gold of Las Vegas, NV
- Portland Aggression of Portland, OR
- Rhode Island Navigators of Providence, RI (venue in East Providence)
Each NSFL team consists of a 50-man roster of professional football hopefuls, mainly composed of undrafted free agents and recently released NFL and CFL players. The most noteworthy aspect of the NSFL is the fact that the season runs from March to June (corresponding with the NFL and CFL offseason). The NSFL’s spring season is dissimilar to the NBA D-League season that runs concurrently with the NBA season. The spring season allows all NSFL players to showcase their football talents while staying in shape for the NFL OTAs (most take place in late May) and for the beginning of the CFL season (starts in early June). Moreover, if an NSFL player is signed by either a NFL or CFL team, a clause in each NSFL player’s contract allows for the player to be released by the player’s respective NSFL team—this type of flexibility will help the NSFL recruit top talent among undrafted free agents. Further, the NFSL is attractive to player agents because of the league’s cooperative and transparent nature with the NFL and CFL. For instance, the NSFL is encouraging NFL and CFL scouts to attend team practices and league games. And, the NSFL is providing NFL and CFL scouting departments with access to weekly game tapes of each NSFL game during the entire inaugural season. This will better promote the talented players and coaches that are involved with the NSFL.
The NSFL rules are similar to the NFL in most respects, except in two instances on special teams and in overtime rules. First, the NSFL has eliminated the NFL’s punt return “fair catch rule” and all kick-off returns must be returned. Instead, the NSFL has instated a “5 yard halo rule”—that pertains to the 5 yards around a player during a punt return, which in turn allows a player to return all punts (other than ones that are punted out of bounds) on special teams. Lastly, the NSFL overtime rules will follow the NCAA scoring matching system, not the NFL’s overtime rules. This allows each team to have possession of the football, regardless of whether the first team to receive possession has scored a touchdown.