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Volume 25 No. 198

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Players in the AAF can use the league as a showcase to prove they deserve a spot in the NFL
Photo: AAF

The Alliance of American Football launches this weekend, and league co-Founder & CEO Charlie Ebersol is confident in its success because it will "put quality football on the field." Ebersol during an appearance on ESPN Radio earlier this week said, "We’ve built a league that we think ultimately offers the players something that no one else can offer: we offer the NFL-out, which in many respects is countered to how people have thought about these leagues before." Ebersol said the problem for the last 30 years of different spring football leagues is "they thought what people want is a new version." Ebersol: "They want it in an arena, they want it with naked strippers and hot tubs in the end zone, whatever the nonsense was around the game." In order to take care of players financially, Ebersol said the AAF has "all the traditional workman’s comp insurance" as well as providing the players with "full health insurance for them and their families." The league's philosophy is that players "should not be a commodity for the ATM machine of rich owners." The AAF is also "focused on how you can make the game move quickly but have it be fair" so there are not "egregious plays deciding the outcome of a game" (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 2/6).

HOW IT WILL WORK: In Columbus, Shawn Mitchell noted the AAF is a "single-entity league that will play a 10-week regular season and hold its championship game in Las Vegas during the weekend of the NFL draft in April." The league will "differentiate itself from its defunct predecessors" by offering "all of its players uniform, nonguaranteed contracts ($250,000 spread over three years) that allow them to pursue NFL opportunities once the AAF season ends." The league also will "provide tuition assistance, housing, health care and retirement packages and offer bonuses for performance and marketing participation" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/7). In San Antonio, Greg Luca wrote the focus of the AAF "remains squarely on establishing a sustainable on-field product." The league’s execs "bring years of NFL experience and a handful of Super Bowl rings." The games are "expected to be fast-paced, with enough offense to keep a fantasy-sports audience engaged." A core of regionally allocated players is "meant to drive interest for fans" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 2/6). In Memphis, Jason Munz wrote the AAF, "unlike most startups, is already plenty legitimate." There are "only a handful of rule alterations" from the NFL and many games "will be broadcast nationally by the likes of CBS, TNT, NFL Network and CBS Sports Network" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/5). 

ALLIANCE OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL
TEAM NAME
HOME VENUE
Arizona Hotshots
Sun Devil Stadium
Atlanta Legends
Georgia State Stadium
Birmingham Iron
Legion Field
Memphis Express
Liberty Bowl
Orlando Apollos
Spectrum Stadium
Salt Lake Stallions
Rice-Eccles Stadium
San Antonio Commanders
Alamodome
San Diego Fleet
SDCCU Stadium
Download the
AAF chart

GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR PLAYERS: The EXPRESS-NEWS' Luca wrote players in the league "stand on even ground with a showcase to prove they deserve a spot in the NFL." The NFL offers only a "limited window for player development before roster restrictions and the weekly grind take over." The AAF "provides a chance to grow" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 2/7). In Phoenix, Bob McManaman noted 49 of the 52 players on the Arizona Hotshots' current roster "have spent some sort of time with an NFL team." Hotshots K Nick Folk said, "It’s a good situation for a lot of people here, myself included" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/6). ESPN’s Mike Golic noted fans have "seen other leagues come and go," but he is intrigued by how the AAF is "working with the NFL, having their season end right around the draft and players can leave and go to the NFL." Golic: "I'm interested to see how [the] football is. That is what will hold eyes, is the football going to be good enough to watch?” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 2/8).

EYE IN THE SKY: The AP's Bernie Wilson noted there will be plenty of "differences between the NFL and the AAF," like a "ninth member of the officiating crew, called a SkyJudge who will be in the press box and can instantly correct 'obvious and egregious' officiating errors." The SkyJudge was "already in place before" the non-call in the NFC Championship. Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira, who is a consultant for the AAF, said that it was "modeled in part after the college targeting rule, which allows replay to step in and call targeting even if was not called on field" (AP, 2/6).

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: USA TODAY's Brent Schrotenboer writes it "might not be long" before the AAF and other new pro football ventures "disrupt and influence the lucrative worlds of college and pro football." This is "new territory for the elite levels of American football, and it’s about to open up even wider." Virtually all prior attempts to launch new pro football leagues in the U.S. have "collapsed in the shadow of the mighty NFL." The difference now "might be timing," as a number of "big-name supporters and partners with deep pockets thinks the market is finally ripe for more football." Part of the attraction "stems from the expected growth of legalized sports gambling." Another reason is the "proliferation and evolution of digital media platforms and technology" (USA TODAY, 2/8). THE RINGER's Danny Heifetz writes history says the AAF "will not survive, but it might be a lot of fun if we accept it for what it is: the junk food that can sustain our appetite until the NFL draft" (THERINGER.com, 2/8). ESPN’s Mike Golic Jr. noted the TV coverage the AAF will have, and said, "People are going to be having a discussion around it. We’re treating it like football, now can the product match that?” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 2/8).

Republic FC broke many USL attendance records in '14 on its way to winning the league championship

In the time since Sacramento Republic FC made its MLS intentions clear, league expansion has become an "expensive game of musical chairs for all involved," and at this point, the bid "hasn't found its chair," according to Jeff Rueter of THE ATHLETIC. Sacramento believes it has "never been more MLS-ready than it is today." The reasoning is two-fold: a new chief investor for Republic FC in Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle, and a "return to the club’s roots." In '14, Republic FC won the USL Cup while "breaking league attendance records." However, paid attendance is "only part of the equation to get into MLS." The league focuses on three key components: a soccer-specific stadium, a committed local ownership group and a market with "strong support for soccer." For Sacramento, the stadium piece has been "locked in place for a couple years" with the 244-acre parcel known as the Railyards. As for local ownership, it has been a "rollercoaster ride" that has largely defined Republic FC's bid since '17. The third part of the pitch has "aspects that can favor the Sacramento bid, and also those that sideswipe it." Republic's "consistently strong attendance in USL proves the city's interest in soccer." However, the city does "not have a single Fortune 500 company in its area, and adding the club would give the MLS a fourth Californian side" (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/6).

ESPN.com's Jeff Passan noted MLB "will rename the disabled list as the 'injured list.'" The change comes "out of concern that the term 'disabled' for injured players falsely conflates disabilities with injuries and an inability to participate in sports." Deputy Commissioner & Chief Legal Officer/Baseball Administration Dan Halem said that the change was "made at the suggestion of advocacy groups for the disabled." The rules of the list "will remain the same" (ESPN.com, 2/7).

BACK IN TOWN: The Arena Football League is launching a team in Columbus, set to begin play this spring at Nationwide Arena. The Columbus Destroyers played in the AFL from '04-08 (AFL). In Columbus, Jerod Smalley wrote the move is on an "aggressive timeline and the team hopes to announce a coach and management structure soon." It is "unclear whether the 'Destroyers' will remain the team nickname," although sources said that that is the "current plan" (NCB4I.com, 2/7).

COME TOGETHER: The ISPS Handa Vic Open began on Thursday in Australia, and GOLF DIGEST's John Huggan wrote the event, a joint men's and women's event at the same course, remains a "fascinating hint of a more enlightened future for professional golf." Golfer Geoff Ogilvy said, “The guys and girls thing just makes sense. Two real tournaments played at the same time on the same courses makes sense.” LPGA player Catriona Matthew said, “There is no downside to this event. It really is an inventive initiative and a fun format." Huggan noted there have been "one or two murmurings of discontent." Many of the women "have noted the sight of several of their tees sitting either directly alongside or marginally ahead of those of the men" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 2/6).