AAF, RIP?

Yet another promising spring football league seems to have bitten the dust.

Darren Rovell (“AAF Suspending Football Operations Immediately, League’s Future Now in Doubt“):

Just eight weeks after playing its first games, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) will be suspending football operations by the end of Tuesday, according to sources.

Tom Dundon effectively bought a majority stake in the league in mid-February, with the league announcing his commitment of $250 million. It later became clear that Dundon, who owns the Carolina Hurricanes, was funding the league on a week-to-week basis, with his approximate total commitment being $70 million to this point.

After the deal with Dundon, sources say it became clear to league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian that Dundon’s objectives were different from the original plan.

Ebersol and Polian’s plan was to develop the league for three years on its own before becoming a feeder system to the NFL. Dundon, however, wanted to create that minor league relationship immediately and sought to use the leverage of folding the AAF to get a deal with the NFL Players Association to better insure a flow between leagues.

As it stood, the NFL collective bargaining agreement would not allow several of Dundon’s asks, including a flexible system between AAF players and NFL practice squads.

According to sources, the AAF had a call with reps from the NFLPA on Monday and a potential relationship showed some signs of life, so Tuesday’s news came as a surprise to some league executives.

Before Dundon came along, the league’s main investor was Reggie Fowler, as The Action Network first reported on March 27.

Fowler, who was initially going to buy the Minnesota Vikings before having financial issues, committed $170 million to the AAF, according to sources. After being vetted and suggested to the AAF by NFL executives themselves, Fowler had only put up $28 million by the time Dundon swooped in.

The whole thing is rather bizarre. Previous leagues have struggled but they’ve not folded weeks shy of their playoff. Ebersol and Polian are experienced hands and they had network deals in place. It simply makes no sense that they needed Dundon to rescue them so soon—and that they ceded essentially total control over to him in exchange for his cash infusion.

Dundon’s timeline was moronic. There was simply no way the NFLPA was going to agree to allow its players to participate in a feeder league out of the blue. That sort of thing takes months of negotiations. And consideration: What, exactly, was the AAF going to do for current NFL players?

I’ve watched several Birmingham Iron games and found the action perfectly enjoyable. The quality of quarterback, offensive line, and wide receiver play was frankly subpar but it was still entertaining football. The franchise’s most recent tweet was unfortunate:

Alas, it seems that it is.

It’s a shame, as the team secured a spot in the AAF playoff Sunday.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    All they do is run and fall down.
    My Mom
    RIP

  2. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Yours and mine. Exact same words.

  3. Kathy says:

    Dundon’s timeline was moronic.

    Add some disastrous real estate deals, a string of bankruptcies, a fraudulent charity, and the GOP will elect him by acclamation.

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    1
  4. Kathy says:

    The old joke seems appropriate here:

    Q: How can you make a small fortune founding a new pro sports league?

    A: Start with a big fortune.

    Seriously, if the NFL couldn’t make another pro football league work, the WLAF, then what chance does anyone else have?

    I caught a couple of games of this new, and most ephemeral, league rather by accident, while scrolling past the NFL Network listing. “What is AAF Football?” I asked myself, and went to take a look.

    Remember, the last start-up league to tangle with the NFL and win was the AFL, lo these many years ago.

  5. SenyorDave says:

    And since then ,the only league to take on one of the big four and win was the ABA, and in those days they NBA was a pretty second rate. The NBA-ABA merger was the setting for what I believe was one of the greatest financial coups in the history of sport (or maybe business in general). When the merger occurred, four teams went into the NBA (Nets, Pacers, Spurs, Nuggets). The Kentucky Colonels folded and the owner was paid $3.3 million, which he used to buy the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. The owners of the St. Louis Spirits, the other ABA team that did not enter the NBA, negotiated a deal which gave them a 1/7 share of the television money from each of the four teams that joined the NBA in PERPETUITY. At the time it was a throwaway, the NBA finals were shown on tape delay and the money was negligible. But as of 2008, the two brothers who had owned the Spirits, had collected $186 million. In 2014 they renegotiated their deal to substantially reduce the payments by taking a lump sum of $500 million. At that point they had been getting almost $15 million annually for 2009 – 2014. All told they received more than $750 million in payments despite the Spirits not playing a minute of basketball in almost 40 years.
    The Spirits had one of the most colorful cast of characteristics in pro sports history, highlighted by Marvin Barnes. He once refused to take a 50 minute team flight because it arrived earlier than it left as it crossed a time zone, famously stating, “I ain’t taking no damn time machine”. This was recounted in the book “Loose Balls”, an oral history of the ABA, an excellent and very funny read.

  6. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I could do the naive act as to what other sports exist, but instead I’ll say the only worthwhile thing to ever come out of baseball is:

    So I pick up the ball and throw it to who?
    That’s the first thing you said right.
    I don’t even know what I’m talking about!
    That’s all you have to do.
    Throw it to first base?
    Yes.
    So I throw the ball to first base and who gets it?
    Naturally.
    Naturally?
    Naturally.
    So I throw the ball to first base and Naturally gets it.
    No! You throw the ball to first base-
    THEN WHO GETS IT?
    Naturally!
    THAT’S WHAT I SAID!

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  7. Mister Bluster says:

    The proper name of the ABA team from River City was Spirits of St. Louis.
    I saw them play the Philadelphia 76ers in a pre season exhibition game fall 1975 in the Arena at Sleepytown U.

  8. James Pearce says:

    Tom Dundon effectively bought a majority stake in the league in mid-February, with the league announcing his commitment of $250 million. It later became clear that Dundon, who owns the Carolina Hurricanes, was funding the league on a week-to-week basis, with his approximate total commitment being $70 million to this point.

    When angel investors resemble demons…