The second incarnation of the XFL spring football league came to an abrupt end due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now it looks as if the league will not be back.
Yet another spring league now bites the dust along with last year’s Alliance of American Football (AAF), Arena Football League as well as other leagues: the first XFL, World League of American Football/NFL Europe and the United States Football League (USFL).
Maybe we can now admit to ourselves that professional spring football leagues won’t work. It has been tried now many times and each time they have all folded. As much as I love football it is also hard for me to admit that football can’t be a year-round sport.
It actually looked like the XFL was going to work with their innovative rules, television contracts and caliber of players but the pandemic brought an immediate end to the season. While established sports leagues can survive, startup leagues like the XFL was dealt a difficult blow to its existence.
The eight-team league will now add the Dallas Renegades, DC Defenders, Houston Roughnecks, New York Guardians, Los Angeles Wildcats, St. Louis Battlehawks and Tampa Bay Vipers to the graveyard of failed sports leagues and teams. It is sad. St. Louis was drawing big crowds to a city that has been abandoned by two NFL teams. Dallas and Houston had some quality teams and were going to be the two teams challenging for the league title.
It’s difficult to tell if the league would have survived its first season had it now been for the pandemic that has affected the entire world. They were soon going to be competing with Major League Baseball (MLB) for attention. I think they might have been able to do it but now we will never know.
Hopefully the XFL’s short-lived existence can live on if the NFL would consider some of the innovative rules that proved to be successful such as the kickoff where the kicker would line up on his own 30-yard line, but every one of the kicking team’s coverage players would be lined up on the opposing team’s 35-yard line. The receiving team’s blockers would line up just five yards away at their own 30-yard line. Players on both teams were only allowed to move once the returner caught the kickoff. The NFL could also consider the XFL rules on points after touchdown where the league eliminated kicking and replaced with 1, 2 or 3-point conversions. I would also suggest the NFL make field goals worth four points if they were going to implement the XFL’s points-after-touchdown rules.
The XFL is gone. The pandemic claims another victim. There will be no more football played in the spring.
This weekend, the return of the XFL kicked off in Dallas, New York, Houston and Washington D.C.
I liked it and have a good feeling about this league.
Early reviews and ratings are already better than last year’s failure of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) which failed to finish the season.
I watched the highlights of all four games from the first weekend and I think they have a quality product on the field. It’s also a kinder, gentler version of the original XFL that Vince McMahn put in our faces in 2001.
I also love the rule changes with the kickoff and extra point rules where they have eliminated kicking the point after touchdown for letting teams go for 1,2 or 3 points. I think that’s a great idea.
The league had an average attendance of 17,000 in Dallas, DC, New York and Houston which isn’t too bad. The XFL generated more ticket sales revenue prior to kickoff than last year’s AAF generated during its entire season. TV ratings where respectable with over 3.3 million viewers.
So can the XFL make it where so many others have failed? It depends on one very important thing – money. If they play within their means and don’t try to compete with the National Football League (NFL) they could last a bit longer than other leagues that have failed in the past. I also think that scheduling might help. I’m not sure that starting the season the week after the Super Bowl is a good plan. I might have waited until the first weekend in March.
The XFL has a great opportunity to be a developmental league for the NFL. The XFL isn’t trying to do that yet but if they can be a stable league, the NFL might see the advantage of a working relationship. I would like to see that happen. I have always thought that a spring football league could work with the right financing and management.
I was glad to see that the new XFL dropped the gimmicky WWE hype from the first version. Maybe they got it right this time. It’s hard to predict their future after the first week but they are certainly off to a good start.
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.
Through five weeks into the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), it looked like Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos were unbeatable. In week 6 they were beaten. Here’s a recap of the games from Week 6:
Arizona Hotshots 22, Orlando Apollos 17
The Hotshots reminded the Apollos that no one was perfect as they held the Apollos to a season-low 17 points as the offense never really got on track. The Hotshots were the ones calling the shots on offense, especially on the ground. Tim Cook had 11 carries for 71 yards, Jhurell Pressley ran for 57 yards and Justin Stockton added 37 yards which wore down the Apollos’ defensive line while controlling the line-of-scrimmage. Arizona was 2-of-2 in the red zone. The win snaps the Hotshots’ three game losing streak.
Next: Orlando plays at Atlanta, Arizona hosts San Diego.
Salt Lake 22, Memphis 9
Salt Lake started out strong offensively in the opening quarter jumping to an early 16-0 lead at the hands of QB Josh Woodrum completing an 11-yard touchdown pass to TE Nick Truesdell on the game’s opening drive. Continuing with the league’s highest 2-point conversion rate, Woodrum capitalized the drive when hitting WR Jordan Leslie for the two-point conversion. Salt Lake continued with their first quarter flurry by capping off a 44-yard scoring drive with a 14-yard touchdown from Woodrum to TE Anthony Denham. RB Terrell Newby caught a pass from Woodrum to convert their second consecutive two-point conversion to take a 16-0. Following a key defensive stop following on a surprise Memphis fake-punt, K Taylor Bertolet kicked a 26-yard field goal to put the Stallions up 19-0.
Next: Salt Lake travels to San Antonio, Memphis hosts Birmingham
San Antonio 37, Atlanta 6
The San Antonio Commanders scored early and never trailed as they defeated the Atlanta Legends 37-6 in front of 10,619 at Georgia State Stadium. The Commanders (4-2) set a season-high in points by scoring 37, and the defense matched its best performance of the year by holding the Legends (2-4) to just six points. The San Antonio defense led the way by forcing four turnovers, marking the third straight week with three or more turnovers. De’Vante Bausby, Zack Sanchez and Derron Smith all tallied an interception and Duke Thomas recovered a fumble in the victory. Offensively, Logan Woodside completed 17 of his 23 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns – one to Mekale McKay and another to Evan Rodriguez.
Next: San Antonio will host Salt Lake, Atlanta is at home against Orlando
Birmingham 32, San Diego 29
Quarterback Luis Perez came off the bench for injured starter Keith Price and threw three touchdowns, and he led a final drive that ended with Nick Novak’s 43-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to lift the Birmingham Iron to a victory over the San Diego Fleet at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. The win ends Birmingham’s two-game losing streak.
Next: Birmingham plays at Memphis, San Diego is at Arizona.
AFF News and Notes:
Johnny Manziel has joined the Memphis Express. There has been no indication on when Manziel might see his first action in the AAF.
The Birmingham Iron’s front office has undergone a midseason shake-up. Iron President Tom Ward and Vice President for Marketing Randy Campbell are no longer with the team. It’s unclear if they were fired or left the organization voluntarily.
Offensive player of the week: Birmingham WR L’Damian Washington. Washington had four receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns in The Iron’s 32-29 week six win. The performance marks team single-game records in receiving yards and touchdown catches, while Washington became the first player in Alliance history with at least 125 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in the same game.
Defensive player of the week: Salt Lake DE Karter Schult. Schult tallied five total tackles, two sacks and four QB hits in The Stallions’ 22-9 victory last week. Schult, who leads The Alliance with seven sacks this season, anchored a Salt Lake defense that held Memphis to nine points and 239 total yards while racking up seven team sacks in the win.
Special teams player of the week: San Antonio PR Greg Ward, Jr. Ward, Jr., a highly-accomplished quarterback at the University of Houston before transitioning to wide receiver/returner after college, set an Alliance record with a 79-yard punt return-touchdown in The Commanders’ 37-6 win in week six.
If you need some exciting finishes to football games, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) featured three of four games where the outcome was in doubt until the end. The surprising result was that the much-anticipated match up between Orlando and Birmingham wasn’t one of them.
Atlanta Legends 23, Memphis Express 20
Legends’ kicker Younghoe Koo booted three field goals, including a 38-yard game-winner, to give Atlanta a 23-20 win over the Memphis Express. Koo remains perfect on the season and improves Atlanta’s record to 2-3. Legends’ quarterback Aaron Murray passed for over 300 yards and a touchdown. Running back Tarean Folston rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown. Seantavius Jones led the team in receiving with five receptions for 89 yards.
San Antonio Commanders 29, Arizona Hotshots 25
This was two different games as the Commanders jumped out to a 26-0 lead. Arizona’s Rashad Ross drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a pass that had been intercepted, just one play after a holding penalty on the Commanders negated a San Antonio interception. The Hotshots rallied to come within one possession of the Commanders. However, on the fourth-and-12 “onside conversion” that the AAF uses, the Hotshots were unable to get a throw off. San Antonio moved into a tie atop the West with the San Diego Fleet.
San Diego Fleet 27, Salt Lake Stallions 25
Kameron Kelly had a career night for the Fleet with three interceptions in a 27-25 win over the Salt Lake Stallions. Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum led the Stallions with a 76 -yard drive in the closing minutes of the game to go up 25-24 with less than a minute to play. San Diego quarterback Mike Bercovici answered with a 45-yard pass to Dontez Ford which set up Donny Hageman for the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Orlando Apollos 31, Birmingham Iron 14
This was supposed to be a matchup of two unbeaten teams in the AAF but after Birmingham’s loss last week, it turned out to be less than expected as the Orlando Apollo’s rolled to a convincing win in Birmingham. The Apollos are averaging an AAF-best 29.8 points per game at the halfway point of the season. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead as quarterback Garrett Gilbert completed 23 of 35 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns against against the league’s top scoring defense. Charles Johnson caught six passes for 83 yards for Orlando, while De’Veon Smith had 119 yards on 14 carries.
AAF NEWS AND NOTES:
San Diego Cornerback Kameron Kelly is the defensive player of the week with three interceptions for the Fleet in their win over the Salt Lake Stallions
San Antonio Commanders’ quarterback Logan Woodside is the offensive player of the week as he completed 21-of-27 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.
Rumors have been swirling that troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel might join the San Antonio Commanders but do the Commanders really need him?
AAF football app is now available on Apple TV
Starter has returned to football as the official supplier for the AAF.
If you don’t have time to watch an entire AAF game, watch the highlights on YouTube. Type “AAF Highlights” in the search and click on Highlight Heaven for each game. They are pretty good quality highlights.
A 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)
The 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.
Another 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)
Key Personnel: David Dixon, Donald Trump, George Allen, Sid Gillman, Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Marv Levy, Bill Polian, Steve Young
Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers
Los Angeles Express
New Jersey Generals
Tampa Bay Bandits
Washington Federals/Orlando Renegades
San Antonio Gunslingers
World League of American Football/NFL-Europe (1991-2007)
Key Personnel: Tex Schramm, Oliver Luck, Mike Lynn
New York/New Jersey Knights
San Antonio Riders
Hamburg Sea Devils
Key Personnel: Vince McMahon, Tommy Maddox, Galen Hall
New York/New Jersey Hitmen
Las Vegas Outlaws
Los Angeles Xtreme
San Francisco Demons
Major League Football (2014) – never played
Key Personnel: Wes Chandler, Dave Campo, Ted Cottrell, Galen Hall
Professional Spring Football League (1991) – never played
Key Personnel: Vincent Sette, Rex Lardner
New England Blitz
New Mexico Rattlesnakes
Oregon Lightning Bolts
Tampa Bay Outlaws
All-American Football League (2010) – never played
Key Personnel: Doug Dickey, Shane Matthews, Mike Jones, John Fontes, Andy Kelly
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
Key Personnel: Scott McKibben, CEO & Executive Director at Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority.
Bay Area Sea Lions
Los Angeles Express
New Jersey Generals
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.
On March 24, 1991, the Barcelona Dragons defeated the New York/New Jersey Knights 19-7 in the first game of the World League of American Football (WLAF). The WLAF was the first National Football League (NFL) supported spring football football league which not only consisted of cities in North American but also in Europe. The league lasted for the next 16 spring seasons, with a short restructuring period from 1993-94, and served as a developmental league for the NFL.
The teams were largely stocked by NFL teams to give younger players additional game experience and coaching. The league was the financial support for teams in addition to the players and coaching staffs.
The first season featured 12 teams. They were the Birimingham Fire, Sacramento Surge, San Antonio Riders, Montreal Machine, New York/New Jersey Knights, Orlando Thunder, Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks, Barcelona Dragons, Frankfurt Galaxy and London Monarchs.
The league incorporated some new ideas such as using the two-point conversion rule before the NFL officially adopted it in 1994. Other changes were using a shorter kickoff tee, the four-point field goal from over 50 yards and numerous technical innovations such as helmet mounted cameras, one-way radios between coaches and quarterbacks.
Average game attendance throughout the league’s existence was 25,361 but the league was not the hit in the United States that was expected. London, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Montreal surpassed early expectations and the Monarchs won the 1991 World Bowl title at Wembly Stadium in front of 61,108.
Honestly, there aren’t any names that really stand out from the players during that season. Stan Gelbaugh (London) led the league with 2,656 passing yards. Gelbaugh later played 13 games with the Seattle Seahawks from 1992-1996. He was 1-11 as a starter. Eric Wilkerson (NY/NJ) was the leading rusher with 717 yards.
The WLAF evolved into NFL Europe for the 1998 season with all six teams located in Europe. The Hamburg Sea Devils won the final league title on June 23, 2007 defeating the Frankfurt Galaxy 37-28.