- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

The chance to guide inexperienced players, as well as young assistant coaches, has brought Jim Fassel and Dennis Green back to professional football — albeit not the NFL.

Fassel, Green, Jim Haslett and Ted Cottrell were announced Wednesday as the four coaches for the new United Football League, which is scheduled to launch in early October with a seven-game season culminating in a championship game Thanksgiving weekend.

Fassel, Green and Haslett have a combined 27 years of NFL head coaching experience, and Cottrell is a longtime defensive coordinator. All are confident the UFL has the organization and financial backing to succeed.

“I’ve coached for 36 years, and I still love to coach,” said Fassel, jilted by Dan Snyder during the Washington Redskins’ last two coaching searches. “I love the concept, and I respect the guys that are doing it. It’s pure coaching with players who want to get better and want to be developed.”

Said Green: “It’s a league we really believe in. So much of what we’ll do will be about developing players and coaches.”

Fassel has pursued several coaching jobs since being fired as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator during the 2006 season but said he doesn’t intend for the UFL to be his ticket back to the NFL.

“People ask me if this will enhance my chances to be back or hurt them — I don’t care,” he said. “I never even thought about that unless I was asked about it.”

The teams, yet to be named, will be located in Las Vegas (Fassel), San Francisco (Green), Orlando (Haslett) and New York (Cottrell). The league has plans for the San Francisco team to play some games in Sacramento, Calif., and for the New York team to do so in Hartford, Conn. The average ticket price will be $20, and the league has secured a television deal with Versus for a weekly Thursday night game.

Financier Paul Pelosi, part of the San Francisco ownership group, said $30 million was used to launch the four franchises — all of which will be headquartered in Casa Grande, Ariz. — and that the league was an attractive business opportunity despite the current economy.

“From a financial point of view, it’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Recession is a time for opportunity, and this is a good example. We’re going to deliver a very good product at a very reasonable price.”

The UFL hoped to have six teams in its first year but intends to expand to six to eight clubs next year. The league hopes to serve as a breeding ground for players who otherwise would play in the Arena leagues and other pro leagues.

“We do want to be complementary to the NFL,” UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, but I think there are some likely synergies between us and the NFL and players moving back and forth between the two leagues.”

That won’t happen in the first year, though. Each player must sign a one-year contract that binds him to the UFL until Thanksgiving. Ten-member coaching staffs will scour NFL training camps and watch preseason games to sign 60 players for training camp. The roster will be trimmed to 50 for the regular season, and 45 will be active on game day.

“We’ll have plenty of time [to build a team],” Green said. “The uniqueness is that we’re going to get a combination of players — guys who have played two or three years and know they’re going to get back in the [NFL] and guys who are free agents and haven’t been drafted. There is this whole group of players who are training and ready to play and know what it takes to play.”

A wild card who could attract attention to the UFL is quarterback Michael Vick, who is still under contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

“Somewhat hypothetically, assuming he cleared all of his hurdles… we would welcome him to our league,” said Huyghue, who added that an online poll to gauge fan interest in signing Vick could be a part of the decision.

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