Birmingham quarterback J’Mar Smith’s primary goal is leading the Stallions in their pursuit of back-to-back USFL titles. But if the opportunity to face the XFL’s best team also presented itself, Smith would certainly welcome that opportunity, too.
Ahead of his Birmingham’s season opener on Saturday night against the New Jersey Generals, Smith was asked about his possible interest in a game pitting the two leagues’ top-two teams. While the question was hypothetical, Smith thinks a championship game between the two leagues is certainly a possibility.
“That would be nice and what the fans want,” Smith said in a text message to CBS Sports. “Merging two spring pro leagues, champion vs. champion, to see the competition between the two leagues. … I think it should happen and will soon!”
Given that the two leagues enforce different rules, Smith posed the interesting question of which rules would be utilized should the two leagues face off. There are several rules within each league, especially on kickoffs, that are vastly different from each other. For example, the USFL gives scoring teams a chance to keep the ball if they are able to complete a 4th-and-12 play from their own 25-yard line. While the XFL has a similar option, the scoring team must convert a 4th-and-15 play in order to retain possession.
Rules aside, a USFL-XFL championship game would certainly generate attention, especially during the dog days of summer. The Super Bowl, after all, was initially between the National Football League and the upstart American Football League. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers won the first two contests before Joe Namath’s Jets shocked the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The leagues merged shortly after the AFL’s Chiefs defeated the NFL champion Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Often lost in history is the fact that the AFL and NFL had already agreed to a future merge prior to playing in their first AFL-NFL Championship Game. At this point, the USFL and XFL are entirely different entities that start their seasons at different points. It seems that there would have to be some sort of connection between the two leagues before games between the two would actually happen.
Both leagues are currently trying to coexist while becoming the first successful spring league. When they kick things off this weekend, the USFL will be the first spring league in nearly 40 years to return for a second consecutive season. The XFL, currently in its third incarnation, is nearing the end of its 10-game regular season.
Neither league is trying to compete with the NFL. In the USFL’s case, helping provide players with a new pathway to the NFL is one of the league’s primary goals, along with being a league that prioritizes its fans with affordable tickets.
“We’re about football,” USFL president Daryl Johnston recently told CBS Sports. “We’re about the why, what motivates the guys, what you are trying to accomplish here and trying to do everything we can from a coaching and from an exposure standpoint to give them an opportunity to continue to chase that dream.”
When it comes to a possible USFL-XFL championship game, it’s interesting that Smith answered the question with such honesty. Instead of ignoring the other league, Smith welcomes the conversation and would welcome the prospect of facing the XFL’s best team at the end of the USFL’s season. Rest assured that Smith isn’t the only player who would like to see such a game take place.