Friday, March 07, 2014

Looking Back at the Professional Ultimate League

Fourteen years ago, UPA (now USA Ultimate) considered the idea of a pro league for the sport of Ultimate -- it wasn't the first, and it probably won't be the last. Reading the past newsletters, there's a sense of cordial relationship between the parties; unlike the MLU's tiff with USAU.

Before any of the current professional Ultimate leagues (American Ultimate Disc League or Major League Ultimate, 2006 or 2013), there was The Professional Ultimate League (PUL). PUL was proposed by Steven Dodge, as written up in an article, "The World Deserves to see the Professional Ultimate League" (UPA newsletter, winter 2000). [NOTE: the newsletter's footer incorrectly reads "Winter 2001]

Here's a synopsis of Professional Ultimate League (PUL) proposal from the year 2000:

PUL will maintain the ideals of Ultimate: spirit, competition, and camaraderie, while increasing the game's level of organization, competition and professionalism.  Mixed teams (women and men) will compete on the same field. PUL will mediate the intense competition of Ultimate the sport and preserve the joy of playing Ultimate the game.

PUL is a complement to UPA-sponsored and local Ultimate leagues. PUL profits will be allocated to the growth and development of Ultimate through the construction of facilities, support of Ultimate Festivals, the development of high school and college Ultimate programs, advertising, and donations to the UPA. General Managers, coaches, and key players will be full-time employees of the PUL. They will teach Ultimate through high school, college, and community seminars in the off-season as well as participate in other ultimate events locally and nationally.

2001: PUL presentation to the UPA board.
2002: Host 3 demonstration tournaments to illustrate the appeal and marketability of Professional Ultimate and showcase the sport to potential corporate sponsors.
2003: Begin first season of PUL.

Why play PUL: 
1) An increased level of competition and strategy.
2) One set of rules and rule calling; no extended debates about bad calls, and there will be sideline observers to eliminate questionable calls.
3) Players will earn fortune and fame.
4) Help form the foundation of the future of Ultimate.

In the same newsletter issue, UPA's Executive Director, Joey Gray, reacts cautiously optimistic toward the PUL idea. In her own words, "Not the first with the idea of a pro league, Steve comes at it from a unique perspective. So far, I am impressed with his thoughtfulness, follow-through, patience and his ability to ask for and integrate a wide range of constructive suggestions."

More quotes from Joey Gray, UPA's Exec. Director:
"I think it will be important, sooner or later, to work toward a player-friendly and long-lived pro Ultimate league. It should well integrated with other Ultimate activities and organizations..."

"Will the PUL go the way of the 3 other pro league proposals that have come to the the UPA attention over the years, or will this be THE one? Who knows! Equally important as a solid business plan and player/organizer buy-in if of course the money."

In the next UPA newsletter issue, the board meeting recap reported support was not approved for PUL.

Read the full article from the UPA newsletter.

Read an interview with Steve Dodge from March 2014.

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