LV part of plan for football league

Mark Cuban, the maverick owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, is one of the key figures in an effort to create a new professional football league that would place a team in Las Vegas.

In fact, according to a New York Times article, Cuban might become the owner of the Las Vegas franchise, which could start playing preseason games in August 2008.

The article said Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Mexico City already have been selected for the potential eight-team United Football League, which would play on Friday nights. The UFL’s plan is to move into cities where NFL teams do not exist.

But Sam Boyd Stadium director Daren Libonati said Wednesday he had not been contacted by anyone in the UFL.

Libonati said Las Vegas showed it could support a pro football team when the XFL’s Outlaws played here in 2001. The Outlaws averaged about 25,000 fans at Sam Boyd during the XFL’s one-year run.

"I wouldn’t be surprised that Las Vegas would be considered because of the great success with the XFL and with the Outlaws and the kind of numbers they did," Libonati said.

Through his spokeswoman, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said he had not been contacted by anyone from the UFL and had not seen the Times story.

Cuban did not respond to an e-mail from the Review-Journal.

Libonati said the league had time on its side in trying to get itself up and running in time for late summer 2008. The UFL would need a general plan in place by the end of summer and a specific one by January.

"By this upcoming January, if they’re not slated to have a schedule or some type of idea about their direction, you start to worry," Libonati said.

As far as any conflicts with using Sam Boyd, Libonati said UNLV’s football team would come first. The Rebels have walk-through practices at the stadium on Fridays, the day before home games and the day UFL games would be played.

Libonati said that if Cuban were the owner of the Las Vegas franchise, the organization would receive "instant credibility."

The UFL is barely more than an idea. It’s the brainchild of Bill Hambrecht, a billionaire who founded a company about 10 years ago that successfully competed against Wall Street investment bankers for clients.

Now he takes his fight to midtown Manhattan against the powerful NFL, which has dispatched previous competitors such as the XFL, USFL and World Football League. Only the American Football League survived, forcing a merger with the NFL in 1970.

Hambrecht and Google executive Tim Armstrong have promised to put $2 million each into the venture, according to the Times. Cuban is the only potential team owner on board.

Each team owner would pay $30 million, the Times reported, for 50 percent interest in a club with the league taking the other half. The goal is to take the teams public, and fans would own a third of each franchise, equal to the owner and the UFL.

With the NFL seemingly on every network, the article said the UFL would be willing to settle for a second-tier cable network such as Versus or USA.

Las Vegas Gladiators General Manager Sam Jankovich, who was CEO of the New England Patriots from 1991 to 1993, said a TV deal is crucial to any chances of survival.

"I find it very hard to believe that they can get a great television package," Jankovich said. "Maybe they can get some network like the AFL (American Football League) did to step to the plate and treat it pretty good or the old USFL did for a short period of time, but they didn’t last very long. Ratings are the name of the game."

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