It’s been a busy week for UFL news out of Birmingham. The Stallions hosted the first of the league’s many town hall events this Thursday, and with it came major confirmations about the 2024 rulebook from head of football operations Daryl Johnston. I had a chance to talk with Johnston after the press conference and was able to get first hand details on what to expect this season.
Here’s everything we know about the UFL rules so far.
UFL Rule – Kickoff from the 20 yard line, with all players moving on the kick. (USFL Rule) During a live interview with Birmingham’s The Next Round, Johnston confirmed that the UFL will use the same kickoff format as the USFL did in years prior. This version of the kickoff, while different from the NFL, is much more traditional than its XFL counterpart. In the UFL kickoff, the place kicker will send it away from their own 20 yard line, increasing returns and improving
offensive field position.
Johnston went on record stating that he “did not like the stationary [XFL] kickoff” and that “it just didn’t look like football.” Even the strongest XFL supporters can’t deny that Johnstons claim holds some truth. While their format succeeded in decreasing the risk of injury, it often came across stilted and slow on tv. Furthermore, in removing a key aspect of the NFL special teams system the XFL version cut off potential opportunities for return specialists.
The USFL kickoff on the other hand has played a huge role in helping players get to the league, a prime example being KaVontae Turpin. The former USFL MVP is now a staple of the Dallas WR core and return team. However, it’s unlikely that Turpin would have gotten a chance without special teams letting him get a foot in the door.
UFL Catching in Bounds
UFL Rule – Two feet must be in bounds for the receiver to make the catch. (USFL Rule)
Another key difference between the rulebooks centered around catching the football in bounds. The XFL took a more lenient approach, allowing receivers to possess the ball with just one foot in the field of play. Meanwhile the USFL copied the NFL rule, requiring two feet in for a catch. The UFL will once again side with the USFL rulebook and has chosen the more professional approach.
Immediately following the press conference I was able to ask Johnston which rule the UFL would be using. He passionately confirmed that the USFL rule was sticking around. Requiring two feet in means the UFL will play football like the pros. And to be honest there’s no reason why the UFL shouldn’t embrace this. If the league wants to continue to have players succeed at the next level, making the transition easier between spring football and the NFL is a no brainer.
UFL Extra Point Attempt
UFL Rule – 2 yard line = 1 point, 5 yard line = 2 points, 10 yard line = 3 points. (XFL Rule)
Johnston also announced that the UFL will be using the XFL extra point system. He cites the exciting nature of the XFL PATs as the primary driving factor behind this decision. By removing the ability to kick for the point after, the XFL rule, “encourages teams to be a little more aggressive.” Daryl also noted the USFL “wanted more two point and three point PAT attempts” but “were not getting them.” Adjustments between season one and two were made to incentivize going for the points, but the results just weren’t there.
While this decision should result in more exciting gameplay, there is one concern. By removing the extra point kick, kickers will have less opportunities to showcase their consistency and skills to the NFL. One of Brandon Aubrey’s best stats was going 35/35 on PATs for the Stallions, something that definitely helped him get on the Cowboys radar. Time will tell how costly this decision ends up being for NFL mobility.
UFL Rule – 4th and 12 from the 28 yard line. (XFL/USFL Blend) USFL Rule – 4th and 12 from the 33 yard line. XFL Rule – 4th and 15 from the 25 yard line.
The final rule change that has been confirmed for the 2024 season is the onside kick alternate incorporated by both leagues last season. The UFL rule uses the USFL 4th and 12, and meets in the middle at the 28 yard line for field position. Albeit with a small change for both leagues, it is still great to see the return of the 4th down alternate in 2024.
By giving teams another way to get the ball back, both leagues saw an increase in competition late in football games. The onside kick is just way too hard to complete in today’s pro football landscape. By creating a viable alternative, the UFL continues to push the sport forward in the right direction.
Ever since the announcement of the UFL, fans have wondered if the new leagues would be able to seamlessly come together without things feeling too forced. Thankfully, if the rulebook for the new UFL is any indication, this season should be a massive success.
Seeing a mixture of both USFL and XFL rules in the new rulebook is very encouraging. This proves that the two parties are both willing to compromise and cooperate in order to bring about the greatest possible product. The UFL has consistently combined the best of both worlds so far, and will look to continue to do so this spring when the season kicks off on March 30th.
What rules would you like to see the UFL utilize in 2024? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.