September 24, 2012 - United Football League (UFL)
The United Football League kicks off its fourth season this week with games on Wednesday night and Friday night. All games this season will be televised by CBS Sports Network, which is available to 99 million homes nationwide.
The UFL's four teams will play an eight-game schedule that concludes with the championship game on Dec. 1. The Las Vegas Locomotives won the first two UFL titles and were defeated by the Virginia Destroyers last year in the championship matchup. Those two teams meet again on opening night in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. ET. The Omaha Nighthawks will visit the Sacramento Mountain Lions on Friday night, Sept. 28, with kickoff at 11 p.m. ET.
The Locos are coached by Jim Fassel, a veteran of the NFL who led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl during the 2000 season. He is the only coach the Locos have had and also serves as general manager. The Destroyers saw a passing of the coaching torch, but still managed to keep it in the family, as Kurt Schottenheimer takes over for his older brother, Marty.
"While I share in my brother's passion for the game and the satisfaction that comes from teaching the fundamentals necessary to help players perform at their best, I'm comfortable in my own shoes and my own approach in how best to get that done," said Kurt Schottenheimer, who was the Destroyers' defensive coordinator last season.
The Wednesday night game will also mark the professional debut of linebacker Brian Banks, whose story made headlines not only in May but last week when he signed with the Locomotives. Banks, now 26, was falsely accused of rape while in high school. He accepted a plea bargain on the advice of counsel, and spent five years in prison and five on probation before his accuser recanted. He was fully exonerated of all charges by the court on May 24.
Can he make the leap from high school football 10 years ago to the professional ranks without ever playing in college?
"It's a big transition," Fassel says. "It's a big transition just to play college football. The game is so much quicker. He was a great football player in high school and he has kept himself in shape. I'm looking for a guy with passion and he has that and those are the guys who work out." Banks never wavered in trying to reach his goal.
"No matter what situation I was put in, no matter the experience I went through, I didn't allow that experience to dictate what I did with me and how I controlled myself in that situation," Banks said. Omaha marches forward under coach Bart Andrus, who replaced Joe Moglia, now the head coach at Coastal Carolina University. Sacramento has a first-time head coach in Turk Schonert, a former NFL quarterback and long-time assistant coach.
"We feel really good about this group of players," said Andrus, whose roster includes safety Stuart Schweigert, who was the UFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and is also a veteran of five NFL seasons (2004-08, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions). Sacramento boasts former NFL quarterback Josh Johnson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers), who says, "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play and win some football games."
Schonert likes the idea of having a veteran passer to run his offense "Josh brings NFL experience, a play-making ability with his arm, his legs and his head," Schonert said.
Johnson has started five NFL games and appeared in 26.
Week 1 Games
Virginia (0-0) at Las Vegas (0-0)
Wednesday, Sept. 26, 9:00 PM, ET
Site: Sam Boyd Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network (check local listings at www.cbssportsnetwork.com) Announcers: Brent Stover (play by play), Adam Archuleta (analyst), Lauren Gardner (sideline reporter)
Omaha (0-0) at Sacramento (0-0)
Friday, Sept. 28, 11:00 PM, ET
Site: Raley Field
TV: CBS Sports Network (check local listings at www.cbssportsnetwork.com)
Announcers: Howard David (play by play), Jamie Dukes (analyst), Jackie Montgomery (sideline reporter)