The final games of the USFL’s final season are this weekend and a quirk in the schedule has given the league an opportunity to make a very interesting rule change involving refueling.
While the New Jersey Generals (8-1) and Birmingham Stallions (8-1) have emerged as the best teams in the league, the Michigan Panthers (1-8) and Pittsburgh Maulers (1-8) are finding themselves again share the place at the end of the general classification.
The first USFL playoffs are set 🏆🙌
RT when your team goes to Canton! pic.twitter.com/eww6tAo6yV
– USFL (@USFL) June 12, 2022
It also just so happens that the Panthers and Maulers end the season against each other, with the loser cementing their place as the league’s worst team. The silver lining is that you will be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 USFL Draft, leading some to question whether one or both teams could attempt to suppress the game to secure that spot.
The league decided to change the rules and make it so that the winner of that game, not the loser, gets the #1 pick in next season’s draft. The decision was announced by EVP of Football Ops Daryl Johnston via social media on Friday.
The 1st overall pick in the 2023 draft ✅
The 1st choice in EVERY round of the 2023 draft ✅
– USFL (@USFL) June 17, 2022
“We have an unusual situation in our last week of the regular season in the USFL,” Johnston said. “The 1-8 Michigan Panthers are playing the 1-8 Pittsburgh Maulers. Under normal circumstances, the loser of that game would get the first draft pick in the upcoming draft. But we’re going to change the rules right here, so this weekend, whoever wins the game gets not just the first pick in the 2023 draft, but the first pick in each round of the 2023 draft. Make sure no shenanigans are going on.”
Of course, there’s also the larger question of whether or not the USFL will even exist in 2023 given the league’s lackluster pop culture appeal this season. However, when they’re trying to create a bit of juice to get people to watch a game between two 1-8 teams, they’ve nailed it.
In addition, the rule change caught the attention of football fans, some of whom reacted violently to the idea.
I can’t wait for the Panthers to win and for Shea Patterson to move in again!! https://t.co/GQaoV5fjAO
— Chris Perfett (@chrisperfett) June 17, 2022
Another example of the USFL making things up on the fly, but this conversion of lemons to soda in a week with no playoff impact makes at least Week 10 meaningful in some ways. https://t.co/GuaWTu7ofP
— Bryan Knowles (@BryKno) June 17, 2022
I like it a lot! https://t.co/31oXBgKqCp
— Brandon Howard (@bhoward_81) June 17, 2022
love this idea. https://t.co/uhiZ1q1D4c
— Mark Drumheller (@x_drumheller) June 17, 2022
The Tank Bowl is for the 2023 draft! https://t.co/WNVr9iRs35
— The USFL Podcast (@USFLPodcast) June 17, 2022
Ironically, the Panthers had picked the No. 1 this season, so it remains to be seen what advantage that will give the teams anyway.