Q & A with Mountain Lions Senior VP Joe Wagoner

Senior Vice President Joe Wagoner (center) announced his
departure from the Mountain Lions Monday on his Facebook page. He
will become the CEO for the new San Francisco Bulls minor league
ice hockey team.

Senior Vice President Joe Wagoner (center) announced his departure from the Mountain Lions Monday on his Facebook page. He will become the CEO for the new San Francisco Bulls minor league ice hockey team.

State Hornet Staff

Sports reporter AJ Taylor sits down with the Sacramento Mountain Lions’ Senior Vice President Joe Wagoner to talk about the future of the United Football League, stadium options for the team, the broadcast team and more.

What is the state of the owners?

“Right now, the plans are to move ahead for 2012 full steam ahead. In fact, the league has already started budgeting 2n012. Obviously, some things need to happen for us to be successful for this next year. No. 1: We have to find two more teams. A four-team league just doesn’t work. We need to find two more markets. I know there are four that are interested. If we could just get two of them on board, we’re good. A TV deal needs to come up as well. Right now, they’re saying one or two more teams and a TV deal and our hope from the front office is that it has to happen within the next four to five months.”

What are the developments in building an official relationship with the NFL?

“Right now there’s a couple ways it can go. The way I think everyone wants to see it happen is (the UFL) becoming an NFL property. If that happens the games will be on NFL Network. Two games to three games of ours on NFL network (and) the ad revenue generated, which we don’t have to sell the NFL already has those sponsors lined up, it’s all good, we’re all paid for. That could happen, or they might say, ‘Hey we don’t have a deal with the NFL.’ Again it’s going to take another year or two to prove ourselves that we’re a viable entity to them and then I could easily see us going back to a Comcast. If the ‘Blue Sky Plan’ comes through, we’re an NFL property.

“The plan is to have an official relationship with the NFL now. The product is there it’s just a  matter of how long it takes the NFL to recognize it.

“There are scouts at every game and there are definitely conversations taking place behind the scenes that we aren’t privy to.”

Will you go on record saying there will be Mountain Lion football in 2012?

“I will go on record saying our owners, who we work for, have said there will be Mountain Lions football. I don’t finance this thing. It’s not Joe Wagoner’s money but what I can tell you is we believe in our owners and they have always steered us in the right direction and they have never misled us and if they say we’re going to play and as far as me being the vice president of this organization we’re moving forward not hoping we’re going to play. We’re moving forward knowing that we’re playing.”

What markets has the UFL been exploring?

“Salt Lake City, (Utah); Portland, (Ore.); Des Moines, (Iowa); Austin, Texas; Jackson, (Tenn.); Hartford, (Conn.). The strongest ones would be Mississippi, Chattanooga, Portland and Salt Lake City.”

What are the Mountain Lions stadium options in 2012?

“I have to look at all options. To put all of your eggs in one basket no matter how attractive that basket is, doesn’t make sense. That being said we’ll look at everybody. Would we like to get back here? Yes. You’ve got Sac City and you’ve got Raley Field, people have mentioned Davis; I think that’s too far to go. I don’t think it’s the Sacramento Mountain Lions if you’re playing in Davis. Nothing against Davis at all, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I think you’ve got three options and this has been a great relationship and I think we know how to do it. If we go any place else we’d have to start all over. I would love to find a way to make this relationship last because we really enjoy the people and everyone does a hell of a job.

“Sixty-five percent of the people who come to our games have never been on campus before.”

What have you seen improve for the UFL in three years?

“I’d say the passion of the fans. First they came in saying, ‘I’ll get on board with a local team. I’ll support it just because I want to support something local.’ Actually from season one to season two, people embraced this as their home team and if we hadn’t put a good product on the field from a football standpoint and a good customer experience that doesn’t happen.

“We want to be the hometown football team we want people to be passionate about this. We’re not trying to compete with the Kings or with the River Cats, but there’s enough hometown pride to go around. You can love three teams in your community. We saw that happen, people were wearing the merchandise, they were more passionate and vocal on those social media than they’ve ever been.”

If the league doesn’t continue has the organization thought about moving to the Arena Football League or the Canadian Football League?

“Right now everyone is just committed to the UFL. I haven’t even explored anything else. We believe in this and we’re all moving forward with this. I’m afraid to guess what would happen if this league and this team doesn’t exist.”

Was the Comcast SportsNet TV deal successful?

“It reached 20,000 households. It worked from an exposure standpoint and also a credibility standpoint. We had to have a TV deal. We were very happy with the Comcast deal.”

What has it been like having Grant Napear as the MoLos’ broadcaster?

“Personally, I’m a fan. I was excited about it and I was also a little giddy because you hear him on the radio every day and you see him doing the Kings games, he (also) does Raiders’  preseason. We think that we’re a good entity and we like having people associated with us. Much like having the big-name coaches, if you can get the big name announcers that just adds more credibility to us. I was ecstatic about it (and) I think he called an amazing game. He’s a consummate pro; the guy is great.”

What was the biggest source of revenue for the Mountain Lions in 2011?

“The biggie for us right now is ticket sales and that’s by design. If you don’t have people in the stands you’re not going to have your sponsorships, your parking, your merchandise, your concessions. That’s got to be your No. 1 focus before you do anything else.”

If you could gather every Mountain Lion fan and player together what would you say to them all?

“Thank you. For the first year we were selling (TV) air. No one knew what this thing was going to be and they showed up 21,000 strong to opening night.

“There were hiccups and they still supported us. And so thank you for having a level of patience and trust in the fact that you are giving us your money and we are still going to continue to deliver a great product. There were definitely some challenges in the offseason, but for the most part people still came out and had a good time. It’s a company-wide philosophy: We work for the ticket buyers. That’s really what it is. If it weren’t for the people buying tickets, we don’t have jobs so we always flip it upside down and just say we work for them.

“That’s also why we’re so open to suggestions and feedback. Anyone that calls, we’re all for it. At the end of the  day they’re the boss. Don’t tell Paul Pelosi that.”


AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected].