with Tim Berryman, GM for the Birmingham
Bamaslammer - XFLBoard.com
native Canadian, Berryman earned a
bachelor of administration degree
from the University of Ottawa in 1981,
majoring in accounting. After winning
a Canadian national title at the University
of Ottawa, Berryman went on to play
seven years in the CFL.
first player selected in the 1976
CFL entry draft by the Edmonton Eskimos,
Berryman went on to receive various
awards during his professional career
while starting at linebacker for both
the Ottawa Rough Riders and Toronto
Argonauts for six years. He was a
starting linebacker on the 1982 Argonauts
Grey Cup team.
his playing career Berryman began
his professional business career as
a stockbroker. From there, he made
his move to Xerox Corporation. From
Xerox, Berryman moved to Americas
Research Group as vice president.
He was responsible for marketing the
companys consumer research services
with an emphasis on manufacturing
and retail distribution.
1995, Berryman and Entertainment Ventures
Associates brought ice hockey to Louisiana.
2000 Berryman was hired as the first
GM and President of the Birmingham
Thunderbolts of the XFL.
and his wife, Cynthia, are the parents
of two children, Pete (4) and Sarah
- (24 January 2001) - This week I had
an opportunity to sit down with Tim Berryman,
the General Manager of the Birmingham Thunderbolts,
to ask him some questions about the league
and the Bolts in general. Tim is clearly
in high demand right now but he was patient
and very candid in his answers. He has the
look of someone who has seen a few battles
and doesn't know the word quit. He has a
certain determination in his eye that seems
almost infectious. In his answers I never
heard any hesitation or doubt as to the
path this organization is taking.
What was your impression of the Birmingham
Sports Market prior to coming to Birmingham
and how has it changed since arriving?
My impression of the Birmingham sports market
was based on my involvement with an east
coast league team from Louisiana. We were
averaging around 11,500 a game in attendance.
Coming to the games here there was a noticeable
disparity in our attendance verses the attendance
in Birmingham. I didn't know what to attribute
that to. I think the product maturity of
hockey had taken place with the history
of the World Hockey association here and
then to backtrack down to essentially double
A minor league hockey, I wasn't sure if
was part of the reason. I knew that Birmingham
and the state of Alabama were known as the
football capital of the south. The question
is should it be renamed the college football
capital of the south. I think Birmingham
is a good sports town, they support single
events enthusiastically. The question is
will they support, on an ongoing basis,
a professional football team. I consider
us major league, I don't consider us minor
league at all. I think our product will
become self evident that were closer to
major league than minor league. My opinion
now is that it is going to be a tough market
but I think once we prove ourselves I think
people here are very loyal. Once we've demonstrated
a quality product and that we are committed
to this community, to staying here, I understand
they are gun shy after 5 pro teams have
come and gone.
What do you think this league has to
do short of paying players millions
of dollars to be considered big time
sport in the media's eyes?
The argument can be made that getting a
major network TV contract puts you in the
major league status. I think the media will
never declare us to be the NFL. Nor do we
deserve that status. We have said from day
one that we were going to have the best
game day presentation in the world and next
to the NFL we would have the very best football
players. We've made our compensation to
be higher than any other league other than
the NFL. We're kind of in a gray area, they
recognize that the majority of the players
in our league deserve to be in the NFL and
most of them are victims of the NFL collective
bargaining agreement where when they get
into their 4th year of play they have to
make a certain minimum. These players are
being forced out of the league by their
own collective bargaining agreement. We
are the next best option for that player.
From the standpoint of credibility of the
product on the field we have nothing to
be embarrassed about. Its probably the first
time a league has come along in this type
of a roll where we're not really a developmental
league we're not a triple A league we're
kind of a stand alone, non competing league
with the NFL with an unusually high quality
of player. We will not restrict a player
if he wants to go somewhere else at the
end of the season. We won't get any media
attention until they see the games on TV
and see the quality of play, Until that
time maybe we don't deserve any attention.
Were just going to have to show them.
Have the number of local media articles
that have painted this league in a negative
light affected you?
To me the writers in the media can say whatever
they want and I respect that. They are allowed
to discuss their own opinions, their also
allowed to report the news when we create
news, and we've been creating a lot of news.
If they come to our games they are going
to see a great product for a reasonable
price, they are going to have a great time.
All the things they say leading up to that
time are going to be moot points.
While at camp in Orlando did you talk
to any NFL scouts that were scouting
I saw some scouts from the Atlanta Falcons,
and several scouts from the Canadian Football
League. They knew the players obviously
they've seen them play in Canada and other
places. Most of the players in our league
are known commodities. I think once the
rhetoric tones down a bit, there will be
tremendous synergy between the XFL and the
Offensive coordinator Dave Arslinian
isn't exactly a household name. How
did he land the job?
Dave came from Utah state, there was obviously
a falling out there. He's known for his
vertical passing attack. I don't know the
depth of the relationship he had with Dinardo.
Dinardo had a short time to put a staff
together and Dave was available. Other more
recognizable names were submitted to the
organization and jerry made that call. He
really likes Dave's offense, he was impressed
how he was a teacher of the game. Just a
real classy guy.
Does it concern you that only three
of the coaches have any pro coaching
You know this is such an unknown, I'm not
sure if pro experience is an advantage.
I recognize that other teams have coaches
from NFL Europe and the CFL, but Jerry's
got the eye of the tiger and this is his
debut in professional football and a chance
to demonstrate that he belongs in professional
football. I think it actually works in our
How pivotal is player personnel director
Bob Gates been to your organization?
Bob is extremely pivotal He originally started
with the league. Being there at the outset
as player resumes were coming in and the
database was made of the available players,
bob gained first hand knowledge of those
players. Getting him to Birmingham was a
real coo. Over time things tend to even
out because the database is constantly changing
and updated and the expansion drafts added
so many players.
What are your impressions of Rick and
Bubba the two radio show hosts?
I listen to them, I enjoy their humor. We
as a league decided we wanted to be different.
To my knowledge there aren't many teams
out there who have gone with the traditional
play by play men. We all decided to think
outside the box a little bit and see what
the football fan really wants. We would
argue that they want to hear more than just
who carried the ball how many yards a game.
We think they would want to hear where they
ate last night what they like about New
York, what they dislike. I think that those
guys are going to have a lot of fun and
that's what we wanted them to get over to
the listening audience.
Where is the championship game going
to be held?
That is possibly going to be at the home
site of the team with the best regular season
record barring issues such as stadium availability
and perhaps TV conflicts. There is a possibility
for instance that it could be here in Birmingham.
Looking over your resume you have had
an incredible career. You were the first
round draft pick of the CFL, played
on a Grey Cup team. After football you
were a stockbroker, a vice president
at Xerox. Then you went into sports
management. How would you rate the challenge
here in Birmingham compared to other
challenges you've faced?
I really compare this to two other situations.
Bringing professional ice hockey to Louisiana,
the media really beat us up, they said this
thing is never going to fly, and initially
we only sold 1800 season tickets. It wasn't
a great number it wasn't a bad number. There
was a prevailing attitude that this won't
work but I relish in those challenges. If
this job was one where you just come in
and lay down, I don't think I'd be here.
When it's a challenge that when it happens,
and really works then you can walk away
and feel real good about it. We went on
to average almost 10 thousand our first
year. All of a sudden the nay sayers went
away and everybody got on the bandwagon.
The same thing happened in Arena football.
To me I like it the way it is where Birmingham's
a challenge market in a since that there's
resistance to the product. I've heard people
in Alabama say, I'm an Alabama fan or I'm
an Auburn or UAB fan. I think we have a
number of starters on our defense from Auburn.
We have Jay Barker and other players from
Alabama. My question to the fans of those
great programs is, don't these players deserve
your support once they leave the campus
and continue on in their pro football careers.
I think that they do.
Several local news stories have made
a very big deal about the fact Jay Barker
a very outspoken Christian is playing
for the XFL. It has been published that
you are also a religious person. How
do you feel when you read something
When Jay came on board with us he wrestled
with that issue and so did I. To be a Christian
you can take a couple of different views
on life. One view is to isolate myself and
hide from anything that has the appearance
of evil. There's another view, which I think
was the view of Christ that you can't do
that. You need to get in the middle of what's
going on in your culture and try and change
it from the inside out rather than taking
shots at it from the outside in. I look
at the Hollywood movie industry, there was
an organized effort in the 50's and 60's
where many churches would say, don't go
to movies. I think what that created was
a Hollywood where the Christian voice was
not heard. I think what we have seen from
Christians not being involved in the industry
is a downward cycle to where we are now.
There are people who I love dearly who are
going to disagree with me but I prayed about
it and came to the conclusion that this
was the right place to be. I don't think
there is a better opportunity for a Jay
Barker with a live national audience and
a hot mike to show America what he believes.
There's certainly going to be an opportunity
for some trash talking but there's going
to be an opportunity for class acts like
Jay Barker and Casey Weldon certainly to
show another side.
from my questions Tim Berryman expanded
on why this league is different financially
from past leagues in Birmingham. His
thoughts were quite interesting:
The beauty is we're not a franchise owned
by one guy, who's thinking, if I don't sell
X number of season tickets and X number
of dollars in corporate sponsorship, we're
just not going to be able to stay here.
The structure of our league is that if Birmingham
is going to take a year to develop, we've
got tons of patience. San Francisco is selling
lots of season tickets New York's doing
phenomenally well. It all goes into one
pot and all the expenses come out of one
pot. That's where I think it is a benefit
to us. We are the smallest market in the
league, you can make the numbers say whatever
you want to. In terms of market penetration
were actually exceeding San Francisco, New
York, and LA in season tickets. It troubles
me that were not ahead of Memphis, I think
Birmingham's a better market than Memphis
but I'll give credit to Steve Ehrhart, They've
been doing a great job. His connections
and relationships have certainly helped
that I took my leave. Tim Berryman had another
appointment to make. After
all we're only 13 days from the moment of
truth between Birmingham and Memphis.