Something To Think About

By Ed Graney
Updated: June 12, 2009

LAS VEGAS — The United Football League will announce logos and colors and nicknames and sponsorship deals for its four franchises in the coming weeks, another step in the process of selling the new venture to whatever fan base is created by more football in the fall.

What the UFL should do: Pursue signing Michael Vick with abandon and assign him to the Las Vegas team.

The fledgling league on Thursday presented a $25,000 check to the Clark County School District in an effort to counteract budget cuts that killed the annual Hall of Fame prep games that allowed schools a 10-game football schedule over a nine-gamer.

It was notable gesture by an outfit that, while run by intelligent people with profound NFL experience, must convince strapped consumers its product is worth paying to see amid the usual fall blitz of high school, college and NFL games.

As public relations moves in a market go, the donation was a local hit.

Vick would be a national one.

The negatives are obvious. There will be a segment of the population that forever remains unforgiving of Vick’s cruel and gutless acts in relation to dogfighting. He didn’t make a mistake. He made a heinous, despicable choice. There always will be those quick to picket and protest, and that is their right.

Vick also paid for his crimes by serving 19 months in federal prison.

Some team is going to sign him. He’s going to play football again and should be afforded the right to work once he pays his debt.

Vick completes his 23-month sentence on July 20, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he would address the quarterback’s possible reinstatement.

But even if Goodell opens the door for Vick — and many are guessing he won’t for the 2009 season — the number of NFL teams willing to annoy loyal fan bases by signing Vick once the Atlanta Falcons officially sever ties with him are seemingly few.

Of course Vick rather would play in the NFL, where the potential for a large income would be vital in his federal bankruptcy case. But if that option isn’t immediately available, the UFL and Las Vegas make the most sense.

“No question, it would be a feather in our cap,” UFL commissioner Michael Huyghue said. “Our league is about exciting players and Michael Vick is one of the most exciting in the game. But we can’t look at it in a vacuum. We have to recognize he comes with baggage.

“You don’t want to turn it into a show or take away from the product, which is family orientated. But we’ve looked very closely at this. We’ve done our due diligence and would continue to do so if we got closer to making a final decision.”

It’s not a big pie from which to choose a slice, but it appears Las Vegas today is the league’s premier city of the seven that will host games once the season begins Oct. 8. The championship will be played here Nov. 27.

The interest level has been higher here on several fronts, from potential season-ticket buyers to responses from a question posed on the league’s Web site regarding Vick playing in the UFL.

(The results, of which, were overwhelmingly positive).

Huyghue won’t step on any NFL toes pursuing Vick. He won’t ambush the league from which he will try and sign practice squad players and castoffs for his own teams.

But a six-game UFL season might be exactly what Vick needs to sharpen skills undoubtedly lessened by incarceration while allowing NFL teams tangible proof how much game he has left.

UFL founder Bill Hambrecht on Thursday called Vick “probably the best football player in America.” He isn’t close to that, especially now. But he is the name a new league could build its first season around. He is the draw that might push interest beyond a semi-curious level.

“Maybe our league would be best for him to start. Maybe it would be better to go right to the NFL. I don’t know,” said Jim Fassel, who will coach the Las Vegas team. “He’s a great athlete, so some of that part will come back quickly.

“But you can’t discount a quarterback not playing games for so long. You lose some of the intuitiveness, the instinctiveness, the timing. It won’t be easy for him no matter where he goes, but he’s a professional football player by trade who paid his debt to society and who deserves a second chance.”

Michael Vick did some terrible things. That part will never change. Many will never get past it. It is their right.

So, too, is it Vick’s right to seek employment in pro football come July 20.

Someone is going to sign him. He’s going to play.

Why not here?