Michigan Panthers to play in new United Football League as USFL, XFL merge this March

E.J. Perry #13 of the Michigan Panthers Casterline/USFL/Getty Images)

The Michigan Panthers have some new opponents on the schedule for their third season of spring football - and a new home.

Michigan will be in The United Football League - a merger of teams from both the USFL and XFL, which kicks off the new season on March 30.

The Panthers will be playing in the USFL Conference, along with defending USFL champions the Birmingham Stallions, Memphis Showboats and the Houston Roughnecks. Houston was the lone overlapping city in both former leagues, but the Rougnecks XFL name was kept over the USFL's Gamblers.

In the XFL Conference will be the defending champion Arlington Renegades, DC Defenders, San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks.

Games will be seen on four different spots with FOX, FS1, ABC and ESPN all teaming up for broadcast coverage on-air and online.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Dany Garcia joined Sunday’s edition of "FOX NFL Sunday" to first announce the news. Both were part of the XFL's ownership group and are a part of the new UFL.

"The dream for me was to play in the NFL. I always liked to say I'm player 54 on a 53-man roster," Johnson said on ‘FOX NFL Sunday.’ "Imagine all those 54s out there, you tell them, ‘You’ve got one more chance in the UFL,' and then to go on to the NFL, potentially — how do you think they'll play? They're gonna ball out."

Although seven combined USFL and XFL franchises have been removed due to the merger, future success of the league would open the door to bring them back. The top priority is surviving and thriving with the new-look league merging some of the best teams from both.

"I think that this merger really defines what spring football is going to be moving forward," said Daryl Johnston, who will lead the league's football operations (the same role he held in the USFL).

Last season in the USFL saw the Panthers make the postseason and lose a heartbreaking 31-27 overtime shootout in the semifinals to Pittsburgh.

Head coach Mike Nolan of the Michigan Panthers. (Photo by Jason Miller/USFL/Getty Images for USFL)

The head coaches are made up of returning names - many of whom are back at the helm of the squads they led a season ago.

The USFL coaches will be Mike Nolan (Panthers), Skip Holtz (Stallions), John DeFilippo (Showboats), and Curtis Johnson (Roughnecks). Last season Johnson coached the Gamblers and moves his staff over to the rebranded Houston franchise, while DeFilippo led the currently paused New Orleans Breakers franchise.

The XFL coaches will be Bob Stoops (Renegades), Reggie Barlow (Defenders), Wade Phillips (Brahmas) and Anthony Becht (Battlehawks). Last season Phillips - a longtime NFL coaching icon, led the Roughnecks, but brings his staff over to the Brahmas franchise.

The UFL’s 10-game regular season starts on Saturday, March 30, 2024, with a battle of the 2023 champions: Birmingham Stallions (USFL) vs Arlington Renegades (XFL).

Players are scheduled for training camp on Saturday, February 24, 2024, in Arlington, Texas.

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Marcus Simms #9 of the Michigan Panthers scores a touchdown during the third quarter of the USFL North Division Championship at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on June 24, 2023 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/USFL/Getty Images for USFL)

"From day one, our mission has been to expand the game of football and be a league of opportunity, culture and innovation," Johnson, Founder and CEO of Seven Bucks Companies, said in a press release. "As we come together to create the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting and very cool for football fans — a spring league with lasting impact for all the players with a dream to play pro football and the ‘hardest workers in the room’ mentality to make their dreams come true." 

Today’s news of the divisions, teams and coaches was first announced by Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson on ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot.