A majority of American sports fans, especially the younger demographic, like the idea of pro football played in the spring, a concept the new United States Football League (USFL) is counting on during its first season of operation, which began on April 16.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted May 6-9 across 1,512 adults throughout the United States, found that 57 percent identifying themselves as sports fans – and 68 percent identifying themselves as avid fans – like the idea of pro football in the spring. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent and uses a national representative sample weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography based on U.S. Census Bureau figures.
With four weeks of the USFL 10-week schedule completed, 64 percent of avid fans and 44 percent of sports fans said they have actively watched live broadcasts or highlights, read about the new league and/or attended games in person.
Going forward, 60 percent of avid fans and 43 percent of sports fans say they intend to watch and follow games this season, meaning the new league has seemingly captured many of those fans who first watched out of curiosity.
"This is a very positive sign for a league finding its footing," said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll. "The numbers show, once again, that football is king and fans want more. The USFL has recognized that there is a void, and they are filling it."
A Younger Crowd
According to the Poll, the audience thus far for the USFL has skewed heavily to a younger demographic. Of those who have watched or followed 43 percent were 18-34 years old, 22 percent were 35-59 years old, and just 15 percent identified as 55 years old or older.
"Maintaining viewers beyond their initial curiosity and building a fan base will be key to the league's success," said Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik. "Having said that, these are impressive initial numbers for a new league – and the potential viewer demographics align well with the coveted age group for marketing and advertising."
USFL Rule Changes Favored
The USFL has employed several rule changes which distinguish it from the NFL, and fans approve.
Extra Point, Two or Three?
The USFL features new extra-point options. In addition to the familiar NFL one-point and two-point attempts after a touchdown, the USFL allows a three-point opportunity with a quarterback-initiated play (not a kick) from the ten-yard line. Of those queried, 68 percent of avid fans and 57 percent of sports fans like this rule, which would give a team trailing by nine points a chance to tie the game on a single drive.
The league also has an overtime shootout rule in case of a tie at the end of regulation. In the USFL teams are given three attempts to score from the 2-yard line, alternating between the two teams. The team with the most successful attempts wins, and if the score is still tied after those three attempts, the first team to then score wins. An overwhelming number of avid fans – 72 percent – like this rule, and 54 percent of sports fans agree.
There is also an alternative to an onside kick. In the USFL the team that just scored can maintain possession by running a single play from their own 33-yard line. If the team runs a play and gains 12 yards or more they keep the ball and maintain possession. On this rule, 60 percent of avid fans and 43 percent of sports fans are in favor.
Questions with charted breakdowns may be found in an online version of this release at http://blogs.shu.edu/sportspoll/.