After eight weeks of the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) the league has suspended operations. For weeks there had been rumors of the league folding before the end of the season and yesterday it was made official. Tom Dundon, owner of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, stepped in early in the season with a $250 million investment to give the AAF some financial stability but after trying to force the National Football League Player’s Association (NFLPA) into a working agreement with the AAF, Dundon pulled the plug which ended the season in a week that saw the Birmingham Iron clinch a playoff spot and the Arizona Hotshots winning their third straight.
BIRMINGHAM IRON 17, ATLANTA LEGENDS 9
Birmingham Running Back Trent Richardson rushed for 83 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown to lead the Iron to a 17-9 victory over the Atlanta Legends to clinch a playoff berth. The Iron only gained 177 total yards, but took advantage of four turnovers by Atlanta including two late in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Set up by the Iron’s fumble recovery near the goal line, Richardson snapped a 3-3 tie with a 2-yard TD run in the second quarter. Quinton Patton added a two-point conversion on a pass from Luis Perez.
ARIZONA HOTSHOTS 23, SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS 6
Led by two touchdowns from running back Tim Cook, the Hotshots beat the San Antonio Commanders 23-6 for their third straight win on Sunday. John Wolford threw for 216 yards and a touchdown to Rashad Ross, who led Arizona receivers with 78 yards. Trailing by nine points midway through the fourth quarter, Marquise Williams led the Commanders into the red zone before being stripped on a sack to give possession back to the Hotshots. Cook capped the ensuing six-play, 69-yard drive for the Hotshots with a 20-yard touchdown to push the game out of reach. The Commanders announced an attendance of 23,504 — the lowest of San Antonio’s four home games but higher than any other team in the Alliance has drawn for a game this season. The Alamodome was hosting a Sunday night game for the first time and also clashing with a San Antonio Spurs home game for the first time. The Commanders have averaged 27,720 fans for their four home games, while the rest of the league averages 13,524 fans through 28 games.
SALT LAKE STALLIONS 8, SAN DIEGO FLEET 3
The Salt Lake Stallions scored the game’s only touchdown near the end of the first half, converted the required two-point try, and that’s all they needed for an 8-3 victory over the visiting Fleet. The only touchdown of the game came with Salt Lake at the San Diego 2-yard line with 4:18 left in the second quarter, Salt Lake quarterback Josh Woodrum bobbled the snap from center and even went to one knee before managing to hand the ball off to running back Joel Bouagnon. As he crossed over the goal line, Bouagnon lost control of the ball. But the fumble, after review, was ruled after the ball crossed into the end zone and the touchdown stood. Woodrum then found Jordan Leslie in the back of the end zone for a completion on the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead. The teams combined for six turnovers while the offenses failed to do much as San Diego had 264 yards of offense to 250 yards for Salt Lake.
ORLANDO APOLLOS 34, MEMPHIS EXPRESS 31
The Apollos took advantage of late Express miscues and scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to earn a 34-31 road win Saturday and clinch home-field advantage during the first round of the Alliance of American Football playoffs. During the game, Johnny Manziel appeared ready to come off the bench and serve as a spark for the Express, but he suffered a concussion while trying to stop Will Hill III during an interception return. The Express threatened to upset the Apollos (7-1) and led 31-28 with less than three minutes remaining amid heavy rain at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium when Memphis punter Ryan Winslow fumbled a snap inside his own 30. Orlando took over and De’Veon Smith eventually rumbled to the end zone from the 1-yard line to give the Apollos a lead they would not relinquish.
xy-Orlando Apollos (7-1)
x-Birmingham Iron (5-3)
Memphis Express (2-6)
Atlanta Legends (2-6)
Arizona Hotshots (5-3)
San Antonio Commanders (5-3)
San Diego Fleet (3-5)
Salt Lake Stallions (3-5)
x – clinched playoff spot, xy – clinched home field
STATEMENT FROM THE AAF:
“I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football,” Bill Polian said in a statement Tuesday. “When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all. “The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity.”
STATEMENT FROM THE ORLANDO APOLLOS:
On behalf of everyone with the Orlando Apollos organization, we were shocked and incredibly disappointed to learn of the decision to suspend football operations in The Alliance of American Football. The Alliance produced a quality professional football product, and it’s been our privilege to build the Orlando Apollos into a championship team with a league-best 7-1 record. The Greater Orlando community embraced our team from the beginning. Enthusiasm continued to grow throughout the season as large crowds of passionate fans supported us at Spectrum Stadium for our home games, and many others watched and rooted for the Apollos’ success from afar. While all startups encounter some challenges, we believed we could address ours in the offseason after bringing the City of Orlando a championship and a successful completion to the league’s first season. We are extremely grateful to our players, coaches, staff, corporate partners and especially our fans who fervently supported us as Orlando’s professional football team. We hope to be able to share information from The Alliance about ticket refunds in the future. Thank you for your support and for believing in us.
Steve Spurrier, Head Coach
Tim Ruskell, General Manager
Michael Waddell, Team President
Once again the cities of Orlando, San Antonio, Birmingham and Memphis are burned by yet another failed football league. The AAF showed a lot of promise and had the opportunity to be a viable spring league. It is unfortunate that the survival of the league depended upon one rich investor, Tom Dundon, who tried to strong-arm the NFL into accepting the AAF as its developmental league. It is also disappointing that Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian failed to prepare to sustain the league for an entire season. They should have needed Dundon. That is a result of poor planning on their part and now coaches, players and fans are out of a job. The AAF had the best shot in years to survive with the caliber of players and coaches in the league. To be clear it was Tom Dundon’s money so he had a right to control things but it was ridiculous for him to use his investment to force the NFLPA into an agreement. Future leagues should learn this important lesson and not allow one rich investor to call the shots. Dundon becomes the Donald Trump of the AAF. Trump did the same thing to the United States Football League (USFL) in the early 80s. But, you know, if I had $250 million no one would tell me how to spend it either. It’s just too bad that the AAF’s survival hinged on one man. The XFL should take note as it plans to re-launch next spring.