I want to begin the entry by personally thanking all of those team owners that I have had the pleasure of talking to over the last few weeks. Whether your team is joining our league or not; the conversations and the communication have been great. I have learned so much and realized that, even with all this technology at our fingertips, the best way to really get things done is face-to-face.
I can tell that the UIFL is making some headway in the arena football world because people are taking the time to bash us again. It feels good to see that because then those people are taking time away from whatever they are supposed to be doing to make their operation great. We on the other hand are focusing solely on making the UIFL great.
I had a wonderful discussion with a potential owner about emphasizing the mission statement of the league. He was clear in his thinking that if we focus on really doing what is necessary to assist our players, coaches, front office personnel in reaching their dreams the league will thrive. We discussed many topics, but the main thought that I took from the conversation was that we need to TEACH our players how to be professional athletes … everything from how to act, dress, speak at press conferences, interact with agents and more…our coaches and team personnel must mentor the players and make sure that they HEAR the message. They will not always listen, but we know that the message has been delivered in more than one way.
In a lengthy discussion with Bill Stafford, owner of the Erie Explosion, Bill shared a thought that no one else had mentioned and I think is very important. In every league he has been involved with or has spoken with, there was never a process in place to finance the playoffs for the teams involved. It is the end of the season and the teams have to finance a trip somewhere to play for a championship, and sometimes two trips for preliminary rounds. He wants the see a league office recognize this issue and do something about it. I have been giving it a lot of thought. If this is an industry wide problem, then the UIFL is going to discover a solution. It may not be instantly, but we need to find a way to answer this issue in an appropriate manner. Any thoughts out there would be welcomed.
Week 1 of August finds all of the UIFL personnel on the road. We are all working diligently to firm up the UIFL map for 2013. I feel confident that we will be making some announcements soon that will begin to clearly show the work that has gone into this process. Tip of the cap to everyone involved and you all know who you are.
Have a great week! If you live in the Midwest, please survive the heat! Jim
I have been spending my weekend talking and sharing emails with coaches and owners around the arena football world. It continues to be a learning experience as I hear of the myriad of approaches and philosophies that appear to be operating in this industry. There are leagues that have budgets that astound me, there are leagues that are designed to make the league prosper and leagues, like the UIFL, that are attempting to have business models that allow the teams to be profitable. I guess when selecting a partner in this endeavor you have to determine what you believe in first and then look for that kind of partner. Like in anything there will be compromise, but it would make sense to me to put yourself in a place where you can make a profit vs where you are making a profit for others.
All that said, I rarely get into a conversation that includes the product on the field. I hear about two-in-motion and lineman that are eligible, but rarely does anyone seem to be discussing the QUALITY of the product on the field. Those of you that know me know that I am a disciple of John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach of years ago. He told me once that the great programs recruit character as aggressively as they recruit talent. I would like this attitude to become a major part of the product that the UIFL puts on the field year in and year out. Presenting yourself to a scout of a future opportunity does not require a player to make himself noticeable by getting into fights, getting ejected or somehow turning the game into a “look-at-me” venture. Coaches and owners need to recognize that and teach, emphasize and demand appropriate “professional football player” conduct.
I would like the UIFL owners and coaches to set the players and the game as our #1 priority entering the 2013 season. I want fans to enjoy the product and players to have an ample opportunity to showcase their skills and abilities. We should all be assisting those players in attaining their future goals. That is our mission statement and should be our focus. Somewhere along the line, we got distracted from that goal, so let’s get back to the task at hand.
Waiting for signed agreements before making announcements of new teams coming on board, and old teams re-upping for future experiences in the UIFL. The future looks bright and we encourage all those fence-sitters out there to join the league that makes character, fiscal responsibility and team profit as important pillars of the operation. The true personality of this league will become visible as the new owners and returning owners recognize the power that can be realized when we all work together for the common good.
Have a great week!!!
Some frustration today as the league struggles to embrace the new directions outlined in the management information that has been distributed. Everything we sent out was read and re-read many times to insure clarity and usefulness. We tried to avoid what is occurring and there is some confusion in our new direction.
Although cooperation has been spotty, some owners have begun to share positives and negatives about the UIFL in 2012. Some have given us time to move forward and some have given us ultimatums and we have decided to march on.
Today I learned that Cincinnati and Marion have chosen a different direction and for just a few minutes we were saddened by the news. It has become our strategy to not waste a lot of time on the stuff we cannot control so after a few minutes of quiet conjecture, we are continuing to evaluate and pursue markets and teams that embrace the direction of the league.
The Cincinnati announcement was the most troubling for me because I had spent time with Dennis Whitman at the Ultimate Bowl and he was committed to coming back and defending his championship. I would not have been so adamant about his teams return in an earlier blog if I was not sure about his commitment. As the world turns…
I am very excited about the teams that have contacted us about joining the new UIFL and embracing the levels of accountability and commitment that we are preaching. The league will be only as strong as its weakest link (how is that for a sports cliché) and that strength across the board is what we are searching for.
In just a short period of time I am getting overwhelmed with resumes from people who want to intern and learn from the professionals here in the UIFL. I have a PhD student who wants to do a year-long internship in the league office and several folks who want to be involved in the football product itself. I encourage anyone interested in work in pro football, contact us and tell us how you can help the UIFL get stronger.
I am certain that the UIFL map will continue to be fluid for the next couple of months as we nail down the serious contenders for the crown. In the end the UIFL will be a very viable league for players, coaches, administrators and owners. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this great opportunity.
It was very long travel day as I arrived back in Seattle 12:30 a.m on July 4th. Had to sit through a four hour layover in Atlanta, but if I did not have that layover I would probably still be in Atlanta. They had storms and everything, and the flight schedule was a mess.
After eight hours in a plane and having all of that time to digest what I learned and separate from what I was told, and what I heard second hand, I think the UIFL has great promise.
The one thing that I have experienced in speaking directly with Andrew, Michael, Mike Zyglis, Ameer Rasheed, LaMonte Coleman, Dennis Whitman, Jason Buckley and others is that the league has an abundance of passion. There are people that really want this thing to work.
As I see my job moving forward, there are two significant challenges. We must have OPEN communication lines so that we get rid of all of this “HE SAID, SHE SAID”, that requires so much energy to negotiate, and just talk to one another. Secondly, I have to find a way to point all of that passion in the same direction.
Everyone in sports know that if you can get a group thinking like a team, you greatly increase the potential for success. If I can get this incredible group of owners, general managers and coaches to begin embracing their “teammates”, then the potential of the league is limitless.
Another thing that I am thinking about moving forward is how we can do a better job marketing our players. The players are our greatest asset. As a long-time college coach and athletic director, I was always trying to find an edge in recruiting. How can I attract a better level of athlete using the assets that I have to offer? I think that is what we need to do. How can we get a better level of athlete without increasing our costs? My first inclination is to do a better job of marketing them. What can we do to market our best players for opportunities above our level of competition? Having systems in place that make the players feel special, get career support/advice and promote their careers would seem like a place to begin.
To date the journey that is the UIFL has been a great experience. The league assets are the people directly involved. What concerns me now, is what has always concerned me as a coach and an administrator … how do you turn “potential” into reality. Remember: if you have dog crap in one hand and potential in the other, all you really have is dog crap…there is work to be done and I look forward to more influential folks getting involved and finding that UIFL reality…
Thanks for all of the comments about the blog! This the final blog in this run of daily thoughts. I will be doing the blog updates on a regular basis, but not day-to-day. It will be my goal to deliver at least one every week and more when needed.
We ended the 2012 UIFL season last night with Cincinnati Commandos being crowned as the Ultimate Bowl II Champions. It was a very good game with Cincinnati scoring on the first two plays of the game, and the Tarpons working to recover for the rest of the game. Tarpons got within six points a couple of times, but the Commandos answered every challenge.
On Tuesday morning, I had a breakfast meeting with Michael Taylor, Andrew Haines and Marion owner LaMonte Coleman to discuss the future of the UIFL. Good dialog and some exchanges that allowed me to understand more about the issues facing the league moving forward. I also had a chance to discuss the season and next year with Cincinnati owner Dennis Whitman, Cincinnati GM Jason Buckley and Cincinnati head coach Billy Back to try to insure that the Commandos would be back to defend their championship. I was especially pleased that Dennis committed the Commandos to the UIFL moving forward.
I am convinced now that the product that the UIFL is presenting is very high quality. It is a fun game, with a very high tempo and many exciting plays. The biggest difference between this game and outdoor football that we all enjoy on TV – in this game there is very little time when the action is not intense. The title game featured great athletes making great plays in a limited space … very exciting.
Special thanks to Mike Zyglis and the officiating crew who worked the game last night. Very professional job and we are proud of the quality of officiating the league has enjoyed all season.
Special thanks to Ameer Rasheed for all of his MC work at the awards ceremony and following the championship game.
Finally, THANK YOU to Andrew and Michael for the hospitality and support that I received in Fort Myers. With the biggest game of their lives and of the 2012 UIFL, they managed to get me housed, fed and transported to all critical events. I cannot express the level of my gratitude for what they did.
Today, July 3, 2012, is the first day of the UIFL league year 2013. We all should be building our cash reserves, building our budgets and writing our management plans for each of the critical areas of our teams. We should have our ticket plans, sponsorship plans, corporate partner plans and personnel development plans in the final stages.
The President is presently rewriting the operations manual, creating an owner’s manual, and developing job descriptions for the management team. We should have new copies of everything prior to, or at the owners meeting … tentative date for that owners meeting is the weekend of September 7th, which is going to include a tryout weekend so that all the owners/GM’s can have a chance to review and evaluate talent for next season.
For the past two days I have had intense discussions about the role of the Director of Officials and the scope of his authority.
We are very committed to developing comprehensive job descriptions for league president and all other people on the management team. In talks with (Director of Officials) Mike (Zyglis) and (Director of Media Relations) Ameer (Rasheed), it appears that we are far from understanding what each of us does, and where the jobs might overlap and responsibility shared.
That is a key aspect of reinventing the UIFL from a management standpoint. League personnel responsibilities should be readily available to all so that when there is a question, the proper person is contacted, rather than the present situation where everyone calls Andrew.
It is a wasted step for me, when I have to tell a caller or e-mailer that you have contacted the incorrect party and please direct that question to the commissioner, director of officials, sports information director or whomever.
Some important points:
- The football thrown (handed) into the seats will remain a penalty
- Football helmet comes off of a player’s head during play…must sit out the next play (NCAA safety rule)
- Field microphone will be mandatory for all
- Emphasize the rules for chain gang and other personnel
- Officials want each team to provide a HIGH 16 – that means a stationary camera that covers the game end zone to end zone, does not move and allows the inspecting personnel to see all players, coaches and officials at all times.
- Player’s eligibility for weekly and season awards will be determined by percent of games played.
- Emphasize website management … nothing screams “out of business” more than a website that has not been updated for weeks or months.
- Important to remember that the most important commodity of the league is the player.
- All players with opportunities that come about by their play in the UIFL should be aggressively marketed. Huge banners about kids going to NFL camps and other opportunities ignite the fans and potential players moving forward.
- We are talking about rules changes for the future and how the new helmet rules for the football world should be adapted for the UIFL. I do not think that this is a time for the UIFL to dismiss player safety as a concern and move forward as the entire football world seems to be moving to a safer product.
Sitting in Germain Arena three hours before the championship, and the atmosphere is great. Players on the turf getting ready or simply trying to lose some of the stress with the championship game ahead.
The realization that this is the culmination of months of hard work is becoming more and more obvious. For many, this could be their first and last championship. The near empty arena is already pulsing with the “attitude” necessary to carry home the championship trophy.
Best of luck to both the visiting Cincinnati Commandos and the hosting Florida Tarpons.
The day started as usual with some cleanup from meeting the night before and the continuation of the UIFL operations manual evaluation. We are moving into several new areas now that Mike Zyglis is here. We are going in-depth into game operations, along with the role of the officials and Zyglis’ role as the Director. It has been an eye-opening experience to say the least.
The bright spot of the day was the outing at Corkscrew Golf Club, where we were able to continue our business meeting between shots on the course. We actually had a great day, while getting a lot accomplished.
The toughest situation facing us on Saturday were the Cincinnati Commandos’ extended bus problems … stranding the team on the side of the road somewhere in Georgia. This was a very frustrating situation for them, but for us as well, because there was really nothing we could do to assist the group.
Final event of the day was the late-night meeting in the office breaking down the rules, discussing the new helmet and concussion issues, and trying to see how we can make our game better and safer for everyone concerned.
Some points of discussion:
- Overtime procedures
- Game film needs for officials evaluation
- The evaluation of the Zebra website for video uploads and more efficient scheduling
- Helmets being removed or knocked off during play
- How the officials might assist in maintaining professionalism in the uniform presentation of the players uniforms
- Job descriptions for Management Team personnel; President, Commissioner, Director of Officiating and Sports Information Director
- Managing player personnel for the league
- Managing contracts for the league
- Identifying the holes in the personnel system and how to close them
Final event before hitting the sack about 1 a.m. was a trip to Wal-Mart to provide some food and drinks for the Commandos who would finally arrive at the team hotel at 5:30 a.m. … a tired and frustrated group.
Got started early today. Really pounded on the operations manual. There are some really positive changes that are taking place in the UIFL.
The championship trophy arrived today…real nice piece of hardware. The winning team will have to find a prominent spot for display.
Some important points:
- Official separation of duties today
- Formed new UIFL management team that includes the President, Commissioner, Director of Officiating and the Sports Information Director.
- The executive committee remains Andrew, Michael and Dave Reichert
- Executive committee continues to have control of new team entry and fees for purchase of territorial rights. Management group has the others as listed in the “old” operations manual.
- New committee has been formed…”Coaches Committee”…to be used to determine opinions of coaches as to where change needs to be considered
- Stats fines will be “enforced” and statcrew will be required!
Some coaches have come forward with a proposal to tighten up the pre-game timeline…suggestion includes moving practice closer to kick-off to eliminate the period the players are without activity before competition begins. Suggestions please…
Very active phone lines for tickets for Monday tonight. Looks like the crowd could be quite good. Visited the arena for the first time. Really a nice place. Looking forward to the game getting here. Have a great weekend everyone!
It was an interesting day in the UIFL office today. I was coherent after flying all night the night before and taking in a lot of information. Forgot to mention that I got to meet the “Male Pig” yesterday and the Tarpons’ #1 fan was in fine form. He gave lots of insight into the fan side of the operation.
- Finished editing of the equipment guide to be finalized and distributed at the owners meeting sometime later in the summer.
- Completed discussions and decisions on the 2013 schedule.
- Football operations can begin February 1st
- Teams can open camps anytime after that date
- Last two weekends are designed for non-league home revenue games
- March 1st begins the official league schedule
- Each team has 3 byes and can schedule non-league home revenue games
- Choice to play 1to5 non-league games determined by individual team
- I heard details of the 19th man program, and it is a super opportunity to connect to community and fan base. Encourage all to participate in a big way.
- Argued all afternoon and into the evening to hammer out details of league operations, pay schedules and other details. The UIFL league operations schedule and payment schedule will be distributed as soon as possible. I can tell you that the operations have been streamlined … details specific … no additional fees or costs.
The UIFL is eliminating as many of the complications as possible. We went into discussions with simplify, simplify, simplify as our focus. It is my wish that each owner and coaching staff can concentrate on what is necessary to have a GREAT league and give each individual group the best opportunity to be successful. You should be freed up to sell, partner and develop your product without unnecessary requirements. I can tell you that we feel very strongly that teams needing to increase their revenue streams have the option to play additional home games, adding gate receipts, bringing local teams into the discussion and giving partners and sponsors more exposure for their support. One owner expressed the desire to begin the season earlier and we feel that this option allows a team to do just that. You can play two additional games in late February and introduce your product prior to competition with other spring sports such as baseball.
Good night…day 3 is just around the corner
Flew all night and arrived in Fort Myers at 10am this morning. Went straight to the Tarpons/UIFL office complex and began the surgical procedure to separate the two organizations. It was actually quite painless as Michael and Andrew are anxious to have the opportunity to concentrate on their team and allow the UIFL management team to begin to prepare for next season. Michael and Andrew have been very hospitable and are working hard to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Some of the things that are memorable about the first day:
- Have first copy of what will turn out to be the UIFL manual for equipment/ equipment room organization and operation.
- Commitment from Mike Zygilis to return to the UIFL and continue to manage the relationship between coach, player and officials.
- Exploring a more efficient way to pay the officials so that we do not discourage our most important resource after our players.
- Looking at a schedule alteration that will allow for teams to add as many as 5 additional home games to the league schedule. One of the team owners wanted to start earlier and this option allows for schedule adaptation when your arena does not have late winter conflicts. It also allows for a team to maintain the 10 game regular season schedule, add games during the bye weeks or begin the season the last two weeks in February with revenue stream games of YOUR choosing.
- Looking at every league expense and league expectation to stabilize some responsibilities, possibly lower or consolidate some costs and ways that the teams can work together to improve financial efficiency.
Finally, it is my wish that the game Monday evening between the Tarpons and Commandos exhibits what is great about the UIFL. I want to see the best arena football gamethat I have ever experienced while seeing a wonderful fan experience. I also want each coach, player and official to compete at the highest level with a great deal of attention to sportsmanship and representation of character. This game will be the last memory for our fans before we go into hibernation until 2013.