Will The AAF Succeed?

aaf_leagueThis weekend a new professional football league will kick off their inaugural season.  The Alliance of American Football (AAF) opens business with teams in Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Phoenix.  The AAF is hoping to fill the football void now that the National Football League (NFL) season is over.  This new league isn’t the first to try playing during the NFL’s offseason.  Several other leagues have tried and failed.

The United States Football League (USFL) was probably the most successful spring football league which was not associated with the NFL.  The played three seasons from 1983-1985.  The league made an immediate impact as they signed some of the top college talent when they signed three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier. Other notable players/coaches included:   George Allen, Jim Kelly, Marv Levey, Steve Young and Reggie White.  The only radical rule difference was that the USFL adopted the two-point conversion.  The NFL did not start the two-point conversion until 1994.

Most people say that the reason that the league failed was when Donald Trump became owner of the New Jersey Generals and pushed for the league to move to a fall schedule to compete with the NFL.  The USFL also filed antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and won the suit but was only awarded $3.76 in damages.  The league was not able to recover and folded before it could move to the fall in 1986.  Many football experts feel that if the USFL had not deviated from their spring schedule that they would have lasted longer.

Perhaps the most successful off-season league was when the NFL backed the World League of American Football/NFL-Europe.  The league kicked off as the World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991 with ten (10) teams in North America, Canada and Europe.  This league served mostly as a developmental league for the NFL.  After the 1992 season, the league suspended play for two seasons.  The league had better success with their Europe franchises than those in North America so when the league returned for the 1995 season, the league focused more on the European teams.  In 1998 they changed the league name to NFL-Europe.  Unfortunately, the league was terminated after the 2007 season at the league was losing about $30 million a season.

The first edition of the XFL played in the spring/summer of 2001.  The league was the idea of WWE guru Vince McMahon.  The league only lasted one season.  The league was known more about entertainment rather than the quality of play on the field.   The XFL secured a television contract with NBC after that network lost their NFL games.  The XFL had some interesting rules such as the opening scramble instead of a coin toss to determine possession.  Players lined up at their 30-yard line and raced to recover the ball at midfield.  The XFL also eliminated the kick for point after touchdowns with the option of a one, two or three-point conversions depending on distance from the goal line.  If a punt travel at least 25 yards, the kicking team could recover to gain possession.  There was also no fair catches allowed.    After losing $35 million dollars, the league folded after one season.  The new XFL is scheduled to come back in 2020.

A couple of other leagues failed to kickoff.  One was called the Professional Spring Football League (PSFL).   The league was scheduled to begin in 1992 with ten teams.  Each team had already been in training camp and trimming down their rosters in preparation for the season.  The league folded just 10 days before the season opener.  The league’s championship game was to be called the “Red, White and Blue Bowl” and was scheduled to be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on July 5, 1992.

Another rather interesting attempt was called the All American Football League (AAFL) which was scheduled to start in the spring of 2007.  The league was hoping to appeal to college football fans with teams located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.  The teams would play in college football stadiums during the spring and players had to have a four-year university degree to be eligible to play.  Teams also did not have nicknames but instead adopted their home state logo for their helmets.  On March 13, 2008 the league announced that the 2008 season would not take place and hoped to begin in 2009; however, they never got off the ground.  It was reported that the league lost some of their major investors which led to the demise of the proposed league.

It is hard to say whether or not the AFF will succeed where these other leagues failed.  Many of the cities have been burned repeatedly by failed teams and leagues of the past.  It will be a difficult sell.  It is very difficult for leagues to survive the finances needed to sustain them.  With the AAF working with the NFL, this could be a significant advantage.  Places franchises in cities without an NFL franchise is also a good idea.  Only two of the AAF’s eight teams (Atlanta and Arizona) play in current NFL markets.

Personally, I don’t feel like this league will fare differently than any of the other leagues before them.  Although football is a popular sport here in America, I think most fans need a break from their sport to recover and get ready for the next season.  Mentally most fans need a break from it.  If the NFL truly wants a developmental league, they need to partner with a league which plays during the same time like minor leagues operate in the baseball.  I have always felt that an “NFL2” league could operate in non-NFL cities as a developmental league for the NFL.  The championship game could be called the “SuperCup” and played the week before the Super Bowl and eliminate the Pro Bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Alliance of American Football to Kickoff in 2019

alliance-of-american-footballAnother professional football league has plans in the works to fill the void for football fans in the offseason of 2019 when the Alliance of American Football (AAF) plans to begin play in February 2019 with eight teams with the championship to be played on the last weekend of April 2019.

Yes, we have heard this one before haven’t we?  The last time we heard something like this was a league called Major League Football which failed before it even took the field a couple of years ago.  Of course, there were the more notable leagues such as the United States Football League (USFL), XFL and World League of American Football/NFL-Europe.

What makes this one so different?

This new league is backed by television and film producer Charlie Ebersol, Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian, four-time All-Pro Jared Allen and two-time Super Bowl champions Justin Tuck and Troy Polamalu so this kinda gets your attention that it could be a legitimate effort.

Personally, I love the rule changes that this league will offer such as:

  • Eliminating kickoffs and allowing the offense to start on the 25 yard line
  • In place of the onside kick, the trailing team will receive the ball on their own 35 yard line facing fourth down and 10.
  • Instituting a shorter play clock and fewer commercial breaks in the interest of shortening the total time of game
  • Eliminating the extra point requiring two-point conversions after every touchdown

The league will have eight teams playing 10-game schedules.  There is no word yet on where those eight franchises will be located but is planned to be announced in June. I would guess that teams would be placed in New York, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Diego, San Antonio and San Jose.  I would think a new league would want to take advantage of cities that have been snubbed by the NFL.

The CBS Sports Network will televise games during the season.

The AAF will not be affiliated with the National Football League (NFL) and will most likely have their rosters filled with players who aren’t drafted by NFL teams, former players or players that have been cut from NFL teams.

Other spring leagues that have failed in the past:

  • United States Football League (1983-1985)
    • usflKey Personnel:  David Dixon, Donald Trump, George Allen, Sid Gillman, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Marv Levy, Bill Polian, Steve Young
    •  Teams
      • Arizona Wranglers/Outlaws
      • Birmingham Stallions
      • Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers
      • Chicago Blitz
      • Denver Gold
      • Los Angeles Express
      • Michigan Panthers
      • New Jersey Generals
      • Oakland Invaders
      • Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars
      • Tampa Bay Bandits
      • Washington Federals/Orlando Renegades
      • Houston Gamblers
      • Jacksonville Bulls
      • Memphis Showboats
      • Oklahoma Outlaws
      • Pittsburgh Maulers
      • San Antonio Gunslingers
  • World League of American Football/NFL-Europe (1991-2007)
    • wlafKey Personnel:  Tex Schramm, Oliver Luck, Mike Lynn
    •  Teams
      • Birmingham Fire
      • Montreal Machine
      • New York/New Jersey Knights
      • Ohio Glory
      • Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks
      • Sacramento Surge
      • San Antonio Riders
      • Amsterdam Admirals
      • Barcelona Dragons
      • London Monarchs
      • Frankfurt Galaxy
      • Berlin Thunder
      • Cologne Centurions
      • Rhein Fire
      • Scottish Claymores
      • Hamburg Sea Devils
  • XFL (2001)
    • xfl2Key Personnel:  Vince McMahon, Tommy Maddox, Galen Hall
    •  Teams
      • Birmingham Thunderbolts
      • Orlando Rage
      • New York/New Jersey Hitmen
      • Chicago Enforcers
      • Las Vegas Outlaws
      • Los Angeles Xtreme
      • San Francisco Demons
      • Memphis Maniax
  • Major League Football (2014) – never played
    • mlfbKey Personnel:  Wes Chandler, Dave Campo, Ted Cottrell, Galen Hall
    •  Teams
      • Alabama Airborne
      • Arkansas Attack
      • Florida Fusion
      • Northwest Empire
      • Ohio Union
      • Oklahoma Nation
      • Oregon Crash
      • Texas Independence
      • Utah Stand
      • Virginia Armada
  • Professional Spring Football League (1991) – never played
    • psflKey Personnel:  Vincent Sette, Rex Lardner
    •  Teams
      • Arkansas Miners
      • Carolina Cougars
      • Miami Tribe
      • Nevada Aces
      • New England Blitz
      • New Mexico Rattlesnakes
      • Oregon Lightning Bolts
      • Tampa Bay Outlaws
      • Utah Pioneers
      • Washington Spirit
  • All-American Football League (2010) – never played
    • AAFL_LogoKey Personnel:  Doug Dickey, Shane Matthews, Mike Jones, John Fontes, Andy Kelly
    •  Teams
      • Alabama
      • Arkansas
      • Tennessee
      • Florida
      • Michigan
      • Texas
    • Note:  The league teams had no nicknames and were going to target college football fans including playing in college football stadiums.

A-11 Football League (2014) – never played af11

  • Key Personnel:  Scott McKibben, CEO & Executive Director at Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority.
  • Teams
    • Bay Area Sea Lions
    • Chicago Staggs
    • Dallas Wranglers
    • Denver Gold
    • Los Angeles Express
    • Michigan Panthers
    • New Jersey Generals
    • Philadelphia Stars
    • Tampa Bay Bandits

So will this new Alliance of American Football make it and walk past the graves of other failed leagues?  I love football but I have to admit that it has always been difficult to get into spring football leagues.  As much as I love football, I like having the break and having a second-class football league doesn’t seem appealing to me.  Football leagues usually cost a lot of money and new leagues have to be able to suffer the financial losses to survive.

The new AAF hopes to involve fans in the league with a better version of the NFL.  Fans will be able to stream AAF matchups live via a free app, while also accessing integrated fantasy options with real prizes — for themselves and the players they root for. Ebersol also says the league will offer “family pricing” with more affordable tickets to games.

Do I think it will last?  No.  History is against it.  It will be an accomplishment if it lasts two seasons.