USFL's Michigan Panthers unveil new uniforms, then land No. 1 overall pick
The Michigan Panthers have been on the clock for 39 years.
Now, they're really on the clock.
The Panthers, part of the rebooted United States Football League, won the league's inaugural draft lottery Thursday, and will make the first selection during the draft, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday. Training camp opens in March, and the season gets under way in May, with all games played in Birmingham, Alabama, for at least the 2022 season.
More than 400 players will be available in the draft. Eligible players must be at least two years removed from high school, compared to three years for the NFL.
Brian Woods, president of football operations for the eight-team spring league, recently told The News that the league isn't out to compete with the NFL. He said there's enough talent to support more than one professional football league, and he likes where his league's talent is heading.
"We are really being aggressive and trying to sign the best young talent that's out there," Woods said.
More: USFL has no immediate plans to play in Michigan, but Panthers' nostalgia a key to league's survival
The Panthers, who were part of the original USFL in the early 1980s, will play a 10-game schedule, and be coached by longtime NFL coach Jeff Fisher.
There's no physical footprint in Michigan right now for the Panthers, though Woods said the hope is to move the league's teams to their actual locales in 2022. That's not a certainly, however. Starting with all teams in one location is a key money saver, and one that could help the league survive beyond one season, unlike fates of recent spring-ball attempts like the XFL and the AAF.
If the team does eventually relocate to Michigan, it would be based in Metro Detroit, Woods said. The league has had talks with venues, though Woods declined to elaborate.
The Panthers of the 1980s played at the since-demolished Pontiac Silverdome.
The Panthers were popular with Michigan football fans in the first run of the USFL, winning a championship. That nostalgia was key to making them part of 2.0, Woods said. The team's color scheme of royal plum, champagne silver, light blue and white remains the same, as unveiled Thursday with the new uniforms.
The Panthers' helmet logo is so intricate, hand-painting is required.
“With a focus on energizing our fans, the uniform and helmet designs reflect a 21st-century look for the new USFL,” Woods said in a statement Thursday. “The finished product is a collaborative effort by a remarkable group of professionals from across the United States.
“Our team uniforms and helmets confirm that the USFL is going to be an exciting brand of football."
The USFL, owned and operated by Fox Sports, will have a 10-game regular season that runs from April into June. There will be two semifinal games, followed by a championship, with the three playoff games taking place in Canton, Ohio, home of the Football Hall of Fame.