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AAF suspends operations

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  • AAF suspends operations

    After eight weeks of games and less than one season into Alliance of American Football's existence, league owner Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all operations, league co-founder Bill Polian confirmed to ESPN's Chris Mortensen on Tuesday.

    "I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football," 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."

    The league had been struggling from the outset. After the first week of the season, Dundon -- owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes -- pledged a $250 million investment and essentially took command of the AAF.

    The league shot down reports that it needed the money to stay afloat. Instead, sources told ESPN at the time that there was an issue with the payroll company the league was using.

    "I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded," Polian said in his statement Tuesday. "They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action."

    Despite a litany of issues, ratings had remained fairly consistent for the league, with between 400,000 and 500,000 viewers often tuning in for games, according to ratings reports. And the league got a bump in attention after Johnny Manziel signed last month and was allocated to Memphis.

    Manziel offered some advice to AAF players on Twitter with Tuesday's news.

    The league signed all players to three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $70,000 in the first year, $80,000 in the second year and $100,000 in the third year. The hope, Polian said, was that the league would send players to the NFL.

    In his statement Tuesday, Polian said he'll do "all I can" to help the league's players do that.

    "My thanks go out to all who made our football product so competitive and professional," Polian said. "I am certain there are many among them destined for future success in the NFL and I look forward to doing all I can to help them in their quest."

    Ebersol told ESPN in January that they had structured the league around a "sober business plan" because he believed he had learned lessons from his father, Dick Ebersol, who helped run the first version of the XFL.

    Problems, however, popped up surrounding the nascent league that was trying to be a complement to the NFL.

    Due to insurance issues, the Orlando Apollos had to move their practices three hours away to Kingsland, Georgia.

    Orlando coach Steve Spurrier, whose team leads the league with a 7-1 record, told reporters Tuesday that it was "sad to end this way."

    "We're all disappointed, but on the other side, we got to be the champs, right?" Spurrier told reporters. "We're 7-1 and the next teams are 5-3. Some of us didn't get into the Alliance to advance our careers, but the players ... I'm more disappointed for all the players that believe, 'This is my chance to show people this, that and the other that I can play this game.'

    "And a lot of them will get opportunities. They've shown enough."

    As for his future, Spurrier said to The State: "If I never coach again, I went out a winner. ... But for the players and the assistant coaches, it's a bummer."

    Additionally, the league and Charlie Ebersol were sued by Robert Vanech, with Vanech claiming Ebersol cut him out of the idea for the league and then denied him credit. As part of the civil suit, Vanech released a document that appeared to be a business plan for the league -- including wanting to approach Vince McMahon for usage of the XFL name.

    Instead, McMahon decided to restart his own league; it is scheduled to launch next year.

    The AAF last month also moved its title game from Las Vegas to Frisco, Texas. UNLV, which owns Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, told ESPN after a public records request, "There was no signed agreement between UNLV and the Alliance of American Football/Legendary Field Exhibitions, LLC." The game was expected to be played there, though, as Sam Boyd Stadium had been selling tickets on its website as late as the day it was announced the game would be moving.

    Even back in training camp, the league wouldn't allow independent reporters to view preseason games in San Antonio.

    The AAF also had intriguing rule changes, including a mic'd-up replay official and eliminating kickoffs and extra points. The AAF eliminated the onside kick and instead created a fourth-and-12 scenario in which if a team converted, it would keep the ball. A variation of it was proposed during last week's NFL owners meetings but did not get approved.

    Over the past two weeks, though, reports surfaced of the league trying to work with the NFL Players Association on allowing practice squad players with futures contracts to participate in the AAF. Dundon had told USA Today last week that if the league was unable to work out an agreement with the NFLPA to share players, options then would include "discontinuing the league."

    One of the more attractive things about the league was the technology it developed with its app. It allowed for faster real-time technology to reach consumers and also tracked multiple biometric data points. The hope was that other leagues would see the technology and express interest in using it.

    "I think what we're building on the tech side will change sports," Ebersol said in January. "If this company has a chance to survive, if the football is good enough that this has a runway where people are engaged, it will change sports."

    At the time, Ebersol said he viewed his business as "a tech company that owns a football league."

    Sportsbooks across the U.S. took down odds to win the AAF title game after hearing of the announcement.

    Multiple books confirmed to ESPN that they will refund all wagers on futures bets, including those on the Memphis Express and Atlanta Legends -- teams that had already been eliminated from postseason contention.

    The Orlando Apollos were -110 favorites to win the AAF title at the SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas before odds were taken down Tuesday.

    ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Ben Fawkes have contributed to this report.

  • #2
    That's sad.

    Between forgetting about it or not being able to find where it was airing, I only watched the first week.

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    • #3
      I'm not sure any football league can make it without either buy-in from the NFL. Or by giving players the opportunity (and a reason) to bypass the NCAA and go to their league in the 3 years that the NFL requires it's players to be out of high school before they can be drafted.

      If the XFL were to attract some NCAA players to quit school and play for them, that creates a buzz, and it gives them good talent to work with.

      People aren't going to get excited, or support, players that are 50-53 on an NFL roster, or NFL practice squad players, playing in the winter, one week after the Super Bowl.

      Start the league in April, run it for 12 weeks, and then have the playoffs/championship game a couple of weeks before NFL camps begin. This gives people a chance to miss football, and gives them something to watch right up until the NFL begins.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Peanut View Post
        That's sad.

        Between forgetting about it or not being able to find where it was airing, I only watched the first week.
        Yeah I think I watched the 1st quarter of the first game that was shown in my area on CBS then I lost all interest.

        The rest of the games that I came across, but didn't bother watching, were all aired on NFL Network on Saturdays.

        I'll probably give the XFL a shot too and hopefully it can keep my attention longer than the AAF did.


        • #5
          A developmental league is needed. Too bad non-football issues brought about the end of the AAF. What they put on the field was quality football at that level.
          "Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes." ~ Publilius Syrus


          • #6
            Looks like Johnny screwed himself again.
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            • #7
              I think the AAF was somewhat successful in what it set out to do. Vince McMahon’s league should be better funded so it should have a chance to have some staying power as long as they try to focus it towards actual football.


              • #8
                Originally posted by samparnell View Post
                A developmental league is needed. Too bad non-football issues brought about the end of the AAF. What they put on the field was quality football at that level.

                MLB has had farm system for decades. The NBA finally got on board and started NBA G in 2001 and appears to be doing just fine. While it would be nice to have a AAA-type league that doesn't directly compete (talent wise) that could also be separate from the NFL it may never get on it's feet without having the backing, and likely, participation with the NFL.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by beastlyskronk View Post
                  I think the AAF was somewhat successful in what it set out to do. Vince McMahon’s league should be better funded so it should have a chance to have some staying power as long as they try to focus it towards actual football.
                  He apparently sold over $220 million in WWE stock to invest in the new league, and obviously he's got relationships with broadcasters. If he lets Oliver Luck and the football guys deal with the football side of it, and he sticks to the behind the scenes stuff, I think it's got some potential.

                  It would also be nice if that league plays Special Teams. The AAF went too far in eliminating things that people associate with football. And sadly the NFL is well on their way to that as well.