As the final week of the USFL season rolled along, people were excited about one game, yet it was one you would not expect. With all the playoff spots clinched, only one matchup had playoff implications. Of course, I am talking about the battle between the 1-8 Michigan Panthers and the 1-8 Pittsburgh Maulers for the #1 draft pick. While the game and its stakes were the results of mere circumstance, the USFL may want to consider making a “Draft Bowl” a permanent thing.
Let’s rewind to 1960. The NFL only had a few national TV games on their contract beyond Thanksgiving and the NFL Championship Game. So, the NFL devised a fun ploy to add a nationally televised game to their contract, with the “Playoff Bowl” at Miami’s Orange Bowl between the second-place finishers of the Eastern and Western Conferences.
The Playoff Bowl would last for 10 years before ultimately being pushed aside by the NFL after the merger took effect in 1970. Its legacy would be complicated, with many regarding the game as a “Loser’s Bowl”, especially Vince Lombardi.
Despite having one entire season under its belt, the USFL is still an upstart and facing competition from the XFL. Having one more nationally televised game with actual stakes gives the league revenue and more exposure. While the league’s detractors would have a field day with a “Draft Bowl”, the idea is beneficial for the league.
Ideally, the league could have the “Draft Bowl” in primetime the night before the championship game in the same city as the title game. If not in primetime, FOX can use the game as a lead-in to its “Baseball Night in America” coverage to boost ratings.
Every year, fans watch the NBA Draft Lottery on ESPN. That event is based on probability, but fans still tune in. It’s easy to imagine a game with draft night stakes doing as good or even better than the NBA Draft Lottery. Because of this, the USFL should at least give the “Draft Bowl” a shot in the future.