Hopefully, the off-the-field issue of the last few days is in the rear view mirror as the UFL heads into the final weekend of its second regular season.
On Tuesday, ProFootballTalk.com reported that a source indicated the UFL planned to enforce its $150,000 transfer fee rule at the conclusion of the season. According to the source, UFL players and coaches were extremely angry after playing under the assumption that the fee would be waived following the league’s championship game.
On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk.com added that players were threatening to walk off the practice fields after learning of the report, but the players were convinced to stay after their teams promised to try and persuade league commissioner Michael Huyghue to not enforce the fee rule.
On Thursday, Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Steve Carp provided an excellent article with quotes from members of the Locos. It sounded like some players were more concerned than others, but Locos tight end Adam Bergen summed it up best when he said, “I’m not worried. If they don’t (let players out of their deals when the season ends) there won’t be a league because nobody will want to play (in the UFL).”
Also on Thursday, ProFootballTalk.com continued to blast away at Huyghue, who released a statement Thursday evening which stated the following:
Players currently under contract to the United Football League until February 1 are permitted to leave for National Football League clubs at the end of the season.
The transfer fee applies only to those players who are signed to active NFL rosters. Those who join NFL practice squads or are signed to NFL Futures contracts will be allowed to do so and their fee will be waived. This is not a change in policy.
As we continue to grow the value of the UFL, we invest time and resources in our players and the transfer fee is a component of the business model of our league. If a player is going to play a role with a NFL team, we need to be compensated for helping to develop that player. This is an incremental movement from last year when we chose to waive all fees.
Allowing players to sign with NFL teams effectively removes them from our rosters for next season in the event they are in training camp with those teams and therefore unable to return to the UFL.
From the statement, it seems safe to infer that NFL teams will have to pay the transfer fee if, after the UFL championship on November 27, a UFL player signs with an NFL team for the remainder of the season and is on an active roster. It also seems safe to say that the fee will be waived for those UFL players who are only placed on practice squads or sign a futures contract.
If the UFL is serving as a platform for players to get a chance or another chance in the NFL, then yes, the league should be compensated for providing that service during the season. However, once the UFL season ends, is the league doing right by its players by enforcing the fee rule?
On the other side though, where were the UFL player agents or representatives to tell the players before the season started that they shouldn’t be signing contracts that clearly state the transfer fee is in place through February 2011? Word of mouth that the fee would or wouldn’t be waived isn’t good enough, but a signed deal is official and the UFL has every right to hold the players to the signed deals. That said, if the UFL does hold the players to the wording of the contract, then the league has to expect that Bergen’s statement could become reality.
It’s certainly a sticky situation and it’s a shame because the focus should be the on-field product, which has been very good. If it wasn’t, the transfer fee wouldn’t be an issue.
Don’t forget, one spot in the title game is still up in the air when Omaha hosts Florida tonight at 8:30 pm ET. An Omaha win puts Sacramento in the championship against Vegas, but a Florida victory gives the Tuskers the chance to avenge last season’s loss to the Locos in the title tilt.