An Honest Assessment Of The 2024 UFL Championship | Birmingham Stallions

An Honest Assessment Of The 2024 UFL Championship

The inaugural UFL Championship is in the rearview mirror. It’s hard to believe, but the first season of the merged USFL-XFL is complete, with everything from these past 12 weeks culminating in another trophy for the Birmingham Stallions.

While we expected this matchup to be a back and forth affair between two heavyweight fighters in the UFL, this was far from the case. After an ugly first half, the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions pulled away, shutting out the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas 25-0. In the biggest game of the year, only one team truly showed up.

In this piece, we’ll be taking a closer look at what went down this weekend, and how certain factors weren’t particularly ideal for the UFL. It was, no doubt, a tremendous season of spring football. However, things came to an end on a rather uninspired note at The Dome.

UFL Championship Gameplay

First things first, the FOX Broadcast did an excellent job of keeping things professional and tight, even with some awkward moments to begin this football game. The entire first half was sloppy, disorganized football – which was odd to see in such an important affair.

Right off the bat there were plenty of timeouts called, including one for DB Teez Tabor to change his socks (what?), which set the tone for the entire evening. Neither side could find much of a rhythm at all, with lackluster play throughout the first two quarters.

Brahmas QB Chase Garbers was the biggest sore spot of them all. His body language, disengagement, and poor play tainted this game. He showed very little emotion, and quite frankly, looked like he didn’t even want to be there. His lack of effort to make plays, such as giving himself up at multiple times when there were still yards to be earned, was brutal to watch.

On top of that, it was a rough day for Brahmas’ OC A.J. Smith. He’s had a great year, but had zero answers or adjustments for Birmingham’s defense this Sunday. At one point in the game they threw the ball over 10 straight times, with most of those passes at the line of scrimmage as screens. It felt like the team abandoned the run for no reason, which was something they had seen success with all season long. They averaged just 3.9 yards per play on Sunday.

Ultimately, the Birmingham Stallions defense were the ones who stole the show. I absolutely do not want to take away from their performance, as they put together one of the greatest defensive achievements we’ve ever seen in pro football history.

That said, the lack of exciting gameplay was frustrating. Knowing how many casuals were likely tuning in to watch spring football for the first time all year, this display of messy – and at times inept – football, was far from ideal for the league. The UFL has had unbelievable action all year long. Sadly, the Championship simply did not live up to that standard.

Attendance & Atmosphere

The UFL was also rather unlucky with the St. Louis Battlehawks’ loss a week ago. Had the Battlehawks knocked off San Antonio, this crowd would have been much larger, and more engaged, than it was this weekend.

Now, we have to give credit to the St. Louis fans who did show up. While the league reported over 27,000 fans as the official attendance number, and we know that’s not the case, there was a decent crowd in the building.

There was an impressive group of Stallions and Brahmas fans who traveled to this game as well, but the audience was dominated by Battlehawks fans who showed up to support the league in general.

This made for a rather interesting dynamic throughout the game. Battlehawks fans didn’t really know who to cheer for during portions of the matchup, especially in the first half. However, once the scoring got going for Birmingham, the crowd got into it, taking the Stallions the rest of the way.

One aspect of the seating arrangements that was rather interesting – leaving the 300 sections open. Truthfully, there’s not much the league could do regarding this piece, since there were plenty of tickets sold in the lower bowl – and many fans simply decided not to show up since the Battlehawks were MIA. With this in mind, it would have been beneficial to move the folks sitting up in the 300 level down to the lower bowl, as there were plenty of them up there, not visible on FOX’ broadcast. It’s likely that this move wasn’t physically possible on a last minute notice…but it would have been nice.

Between the Battlehawks not playing in the Championship game which was hosted in St. Louis – and, the lackluster gameplay throughout, the UFL’s final outing of the year fell a bit flat. Unfortunately, these issues were practically out of the league’s control. In football, every game isn’t guaranteed to be a thriller. The UFL simply had some bad luck, with the worst performance of the year at the worst possible time, in front of a crowd that lacked much of a spark with their team nowhere to be found.

TV Ratings

Now, to look at some positives, the UFL absolutely crushed the TV Ratings this weekend. The inaugural Championship notched 1.596M viewers on FOX, which is the largest audience of the year. In fact, the UFL topped the numbers for the USFL Championships in 2022 and 2023, alongside the XFL’s 2023 Championship.

Across the board, the TV Ratings have been up by a large margin for the UFL, compared to the USFL and XFL in years past. The strong partnership between FOX Sports and ABC/ESPN has allowed the UFL to reach heights that the leagues simply could not accomplish while remaining separate. Every single postseason game saw over 1M+ in viewership, which is the first time this has occurred in spring football history.

The executives in the league have to be very pleased with how things went on TV this year. Daryl Johnston, VP of Football Operations for the UFL, said to 101 ESPN that the chances of a season two happening are “outstanding”. Clearly, the ownership involved is satisfied with how things are going so far – with the notion that certain areas need to improve in year two and beyond – and they will.

Tom Brady’s Appearance

Tom Brady played a role in the UFL Championship, having recently joined the FOX Sports family as a commentator. Brady ended up making his broadcasting “debut” in the second quarter of this game, and things went relatively smoothly. It was a tad bit awkward at first, but Tom settled in smoothly and had impressive chemistry with Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt.

Tom also handed out the UFL Championship MVP trophy to Adrian Martinez. To be quite frank, this segment felt a bit odd. Part of it was Brady feeling uncomfortable with champagne spraying all around him, but it certainly seemed like he wasn’t too fond of the celebrations happening on stage. In addition, the St. Louis fans who stuck around for the Trophy Ceremony made sure to boo him loudly as he took the microphone.

Regardless, props to FOX Sports for ensuring that someone with the stature of Tom Brady was present at a game like this. Just having him in attendance helps bring more legitimacy to the league, and utilizing his skill sets for the awards – and the booth appearance – was a great move.

Final Thoughts

One thing was cemented this weekend, and that’s the fact that the Birmingham Stallions are a legitimate dynasty. They’ve now won three straight championships across the USFL and XFL, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Overall, the UFL had arguably the most successful season we’ve seen yet in spring football. The TV Ratings were tremendous, and showed stability – and even some growth – throughout the year.

Most importantly, the UFL will look to improve attendance within every market in 2025. Having a full offseason, without any major changes, will help quite a bit. The USFL-XFL merger halted ticket sales for quite a while, which in turn resulted in certain cities underperforming.

At the end of the day, the UFL can say they’ve gotten through season one, and now the focus will shift to season two – and beyond.

What are your thoughts on the UFL Championship from this past weekend? Were you disappointed with the turnout and gameplay, or did you remain entertained? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo
  1. 1st off. Loved your article. You nailed it on every level. Great mixture of reporting and opinion. The one thing I will drill down on is the 1.6 viewers. I actually think most of those are UFL fans, which is good because that means there are 1.2 million UFL fans in the country, with another 400k tuning in to give it a look. Starting with 1.2 million you have to think you are losing 200k off the top, but you need ways to win them back and/or attract new fans. If we stick with 8 and these are the 8 make it the best possible product.

    1. Do your best to make officiating the best it can be. Differentiate yourself from the NFL in keeping football the game it was always meant to be.

    2. Coaching: Give a very good effort to bring back Holtz, Nolan, Phillips and Stoops with their respective clubs. The rest could be reviewed. I sometimes wonder why the Battlehawks had the rookie coach. I sometimes wonder what St. Louis would do with Mike Riley or Mike Martz running the offense.

    3. The talent level was really nice this year. Just as we imagined Bryce Perkins, Saosi Mariner, Adrian Martinez and John Lovett would add to the league, established stars such as Perez, Colburn, Hills, Kirklin and McCarron led their teams in battle. As we lost some stars to retirement this year, we should try to again up the contract for players by another couple of hundred dollars, plus give players a nice little bump in salary due to experience. I am not sure of the amount of money, but if next year Darius Victor received $50 per game for each year, so next you he would in addition get $200 per game. This would start after 10 game experiences. If his salary were 60,000 he would get 62,000 if he played all 10 games. It’s a minimalist way of reminding the fans they respect their stars/veterans while trying to put a product that is still a reasonable value. I think fans will respect this approach. Trying bring in established football players like Luq Barcoo, Ben DiNucci, Kellen Mond, Jake Luton and Denzel Mims.

    5. Bring back Panthers 2022 uniforms and the Gamblers.

    6. Former NFL stars: The league brought in a plethora of former NFL talent. Keke Coutee, Wayne Galman, Amari Rodgers, Vyncint Smith Kaden Smith, Kenny Willikes and Taco Charlton to name a few. These were added to a contingent of Breeland Speaks, Trey Quinn, AJ McCarron, EJ Perry, TJ Green & Jace Sternberger. Of this group of players, which ones will settle in to an off-season of preparing themselves for the UFL or again retire.

    I enjoyed the season and look forward to the teams coming back. Although I wished we were growing our legacy by two teams, I continue to trust that they know what will work best for their product. I wish the league and its players and coaches the best for the offseason, say how truly great it was that fans rooted their teams on at the Championship game, but I challenge the UFL and Birmingham to add 5,000 fans weekly or 25,000 to their attendance in 2025. That would truly be great for all parties.

  2. I have been a Birmingham Stallions fan since ’83. I’m excited for the future of the UFL and loved the game this past weekend. I’m looking forward to the changes and growth next season.

  3. Once established as a spring football league with 8-12 teams (no expansion/movement until Year 3 of UFL), I think UFL will be fine . . . fine tune home area marketing and keep the eye on remaining a development-type league . . . the fans will start to come to the live event!

  4. It’s a great league for developing players and coaches. Enhancing the crowd by giving away 10k tickets per game will help the league. It will cause fans to want to give back. Great season!

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