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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Goodbye, Alliance of American Football.

By Steven Weldon

A moment of silence for another minor football league. The Alliance of American Football has folded after eight games. The league and its' teams have ceased operations as of April 2nd, leaving eight teams worth of players, coaches, AAF executives, and employees out of a job.

While most leagues fail due to lack of income, exposure or talent, it seemed the AAF had all of this. At first glance, the television exposure made it look like the league was ready for its' close up. Six million people tuned in to the first weekend of action.

And yet still, before the second week of games began, the league was in trouble of running out of cash and missing payroll. While it was disputed by league founder Charlie Ebersol, an investor arrived at the doorstep of the league. Tom Dundon, the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes NHL franchise, stepped up and invested $250 million into the league to get things moving.

This made Dundon the league's effective owner and chairman, as he had put down enough money to have the biggest stake in it.

As the weeks went on, we saw the Orlando Apollos dominate the league, Jerry Jones show up at the NFL combine wearing an AAF shirt, a former high NFL draft pick in Johnny Manziel signing with the Memphis Express, and the San Antonio Commanders becoming the league's top draw - with one week the team amassing over 30,000 in attendance.

Just as Eminem expressed interest in bringing a franchise to his home city of Detroit, Mich., AAF Chairman Tom Dundon announced that without the support of the NFL Players Association, the league would fold by the end of the week. The goal, in short, was to become a minor league for the NFL. Players being able to jump down to the AAF and back up to the NFL and development was the key piece to keeping the AAF afloat; just as in the past, the ABA wanted to merge with the NBA, and the AFL merging with the NFL. We'd seen this script time and time again, and sadly, it was only a matter of time.

Under Dundon's control, the league could not strike a deal with the NFLPA, and the majority owner packed up his investment money. The AAF folded, with no money behind it, and against the founders' wishes.

At face value, it all makes sense why an investor would pull out. If you're not making money, why invest? The problem with sports ventures is that they take a very long time to actually make money. Athletes, coaches, game staff, venue staff, the entire venue, it all costs a large chunk of money.

But was the end all about the AAF? Sources close to AAF officials on Twitter have reported Dundon was interested in a gambling app being developed aside from the AAF's official league app. It's all speculation now, but we are left to ruminate in the idea that Dundon really didn't care about the AAF in the first place.

Sadly, now players have been kicked out of rooms that had not been paid for, left to fend for themselves on tickets to get home from the cities they poured their talent out for. Multiple people working on the image of the AAF and football operations are also left to figure out the next steps as well.

Finally, the least important of all of them, I don't get to bring you the most exciting late winter-early spring football league I've seen in years. It has been a pleasure watching these players and announcers bring us football with some rules that should definitely be put in place in the NFL. We'll see about the carry-over from here.

Where do we go from here? Well, the XFL is coming in 2020. That league definitely has money behind it, and now they'll have talent and coaches to draw from.

Goodbye, Alliance of American Football. You were fun while you lasted.


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