Just when it looks like an American football league can provide a sustainable alternative to the NFL, the league goes down in flames. That league, of course, is the Alliance of American Football, the start-up league that was supposed to bring an exciting brand of gridiron to the springtime.
Despite some early promise, the AAF suspended operations after its eighth week due to a lack of finances. The league had already had a cash injection in the weeks leading up to the hiatus. Problems were mounting off the field which seemed in contrast to what was occurring on it.
The AAF Aftermath
With the AAF now dead, any hope of it becoming a feeder league to the NFL is over. Reports had indicated the NFL was interested in loaning young players to the AAF for seasoning. A deal could have seen the AAF gain financial support from the NFL. If there were negotiations, they were simply in the infancy stage.
With the possibilities the AAF offered the NFL as a minor league played in the spring, it seems a bit strange no help was given; especially with the XFL coming back in 2020. The renegade XFL will not be a league the NFL wants to contend with due to its presentation of gridiron football. Of course, the AAF’s tale of burn brightly and out quickly, will be something the NFL will expect the XFL to do as well.
Two former AAF players have already brought lawsuits against the folded league. Birmingham Iron punter Colton Schmidt and Orlando Apollos linebacker Reggie Northrup claim “they were misled about the AAF’s financial viability and were deceived in regards to majority owner Tom Dundon’s plan to get rid of the league once he got his hands on the league’s gambling and technology intellectual property”, according to Deadspin.
Their lawsuit brings up the question: why did the AAF really shutdown?
Why did the AAF fold?
The name Tom Dundon comes up when talk of the league’s shutdown is mentioned. Dundon was not one of the AAF’s founders. That dishonour went to Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. The former is the son of ex-NBC Sports head honcho and former XFL co-owner Dick Ebersol.
Dundon is the owner of NHL franchise Carolina Hurricanes. He invested a reported $250 million into the AAF in February. His cash injection is what kept the league going after it was nearly shutdown after just one month of play.
Ebersol and Polian were so hard-up for cash that they gave Dundon complete control and ownership of the AAF. It was a classic fool’s move startups make when major corporations coming sniffing round.
Dundon desperately wanted an agreement with the NFL over being a feeder league with young players being able to play in the AAF. However, the NFL Players Union’s slowness in response to Dundon’s demands led him to pull the plug.
While some say Dundon folded the league once he realised just how much money it cost to run it, others claim he was only interested in a sports gambling app that was being developed in connection to the AAF. The app would have made the AAF a “gambling-friendly sports environment”.
Perhaps the worst part about the AAF is it didn’t have a chance to become what Ebersol and Polian wanted it to be. They planned for it to become a minor league to help develop future NFL stars from the outset.
The duo seemed to over egg their pudding, however, not realising the financial demands running a pro sports league makes on investors.
Dundon will be the bad guy in the story of the AAF. But did anyone ever believe the AAF could become a viable spring gridiron league?