Friday Flashback: All-American Football League

logoallamericanfootballleagueA decade ago, a unique professional football league was scheduled to kickoff its inaugural season with six teams.  The All-American Football League (AAFL) was founded in 2007 and prepared to start their first season in the spring of 2008.  The AAFL was an attempt to appeal to college football fans.  The league was set up as a professional league with a requirement that all players be college graduates.  The league had a big emphasis on Southeastern Conference (SEC) fans with five of the six franchises located in the southern United States.

The most unusual concept of the league were that the teams did not have nicknames but rather referred to their state.  The six original teams and home fields were:

  • Alabama (Legion Field, Birmingham)
  • Arkansas (War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock)
  • Florida (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville)
  • Michigan (Ford Field, Detroit)
  • Tennessee (Neyland Stadium, Knoxville)
  • Texas (Rice Stadium, Houston)

aafl_logosThe league actually had agreements from college universities to use their stadiums for the spring months.  Each team drafted and/or signed players that graduated from the host state’s universities.

The AAFL Draft took place in Atlanta on Saturday, January 26, 2008. The first player selected overall was Zarah Yisrael, offensive lineman from Troy University, who was picked by Team Arkansas. The 2001 Heisman Trophy award winner Eric Crouch was selected with the third pick by Team Texas.

The league had planned to play a 10-game season for 2008, from April 12 to June 14, with all six teams to play in one division during the first season. The teams with the second and third best records in the regular season would meet in a playoff for the right to face the number one team in a championship game to be played on July 3, 2008. The AAFL released its schedule in October, 2007, with the April 12, 2008 games consisting of Alabama at Florida (at Jacksonville), Arkansas at Texas, and Michigan at Tennessee.

Shortly before the season was set to begin, the league announced it would postpone the start until the spring of 2009 but the league was never heard from again.  Various accounts about the demise of the league claims that financing of the league was indirectly tied to the $300 billion federally guaranteed student loan asset backed securities market; however, in August, the sub prime mortgage crisis hit and possibly affected the financial backing of the league.

It’s really too bad that this league didn’t make it.  I actually think a league where each state has their own team would be a good idea although I’m not sure it would work with college football fans if their teams weren’t properly represented but maybe a concept that features the state’s colors or flag as their team colors/logos might create some good rivalries.

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