Meet the Pacific Pro Football League, the latest attempt to come up with a new professional football league that attempts to fill in the gaps between college and the NFL.
The plan: Four teams based in Southern California, each playing an eight-game schedule on Sundays during the sports dead zone of July and August. Roughly 50 players per team making an average salary and benefits package of $50,000 a year, which they’d be free to supplement with endorsements. Rules tweaked to enhance safety and give NFL scouts matchups they want to see. Coaches with NFL experience, who would teach pro-style schemes in an immersive environment unbound by rules regarding classroom time. Any player four years or fewer removed from high school would be eligible, including college underclassmen who’d entered the NFL draft.
Numerous minor leagues have tried and failed in recent years to expand the American pro football landscape by relying on players who’d missed the NFL cut, which inevitably limited the potential for creating a compelling consumer product. Money has been a common problem, too, and remains a central question here. Don Yee, a veteran NFL agent who is CEO and principal founder of “Pac Pro”, says the league has received angel financing from family and friends and he has met with a potential investor, as well as media distributors. But there is a lot of work to be done. There’s no endorsement or backing from the NFL or its players’ union.
What makes the concept intriguing is it targets a previously untapped talent base: players who currently have no option to play for pay because the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement bars them from the league…
The interesting thing about this business model is that it isn’t really directed at the college football superstar, or sure NFL prospect.
… But like minor league baseball or junior hockey, Pac Pro would be an option for players who either can’t or choose not to play on college scholarships, some of them straight out of high school. Think academic non-qualifiers, juco players paying their own way, players with urgent need to provide for their families, those transitioning from another sport, those who would have to sit out a year under transfer rules, those who have been dismissed from a college program, those who simply want a different path – perhaps, eventually, some top college players who want to start cashing checks and use the league as a sort of football graduate program.
“You’ve got all day to spend with football,” said former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, who’s on the league’s advisory board.
If players want to attend school, the summer schedule wouldn’t interfere and there’d be an option to receive one year’s tuition and books at a community college.
I can see how somebody like a typical SEC coach who skims off the best JUCO talent every year to touch up a roster wouldn’t be happy to see this kind of league come to fruition, because every kid who takes up the offer can never play college ball again. (It would also have the potential to cripple every Second Chance U program out there.)
What’s interesting is that there appears to be a lot of serious names attached to it. Whether that equates to serious money is the rub, though. It would seem to me that if this isn’t sufficiently capitalized, it’ll be hard to sway kids from giving up their amateur status before they’re eligible to sign with an NFL team.