By J.D. McKay
On Feb. 9, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) played its first game. I, being a typical sports-loving American, tuned in; I was not disappointed. I watched the San Diego Fleet, whose logo is dope, play the San Antonio Commanders in a game that had just one touchdown but some good football violence. The Commanders eventually won the game, but the real winners were football fans everywhere.
The AAF is a minor league football league with no current connection to the NFL. The league has some failed NFL players like Trent Richardson who are still trying to get back the league. Some players are not NFL talent out of college but are looking for a chance to show their talent and get a shot in the NFL. The last type of player is guys who were practice squad players for the NFL, trying to show that they are legit NFL talents who should be on main rosters.
The league has some different rules from the NFL. For example, you can make clean, violent, hits on a quarterback. There are no kickoffs, and instead of an onside kick, you must run one offensive play and get 12 yards. They took away the extra point and made teams always go for two. This adds some pressure to the game to show how players play under pressure. My favorite thing, though, is the lack of commercial breaks. The league’s creator, Charlie Eberson said that to shorten the game, commercial will only be in natural points in the game. That is expected to cut down the actual game time by 30 minutes.
The league foresaw having money issues as many minor leagues do, and also planned some creative solutions to this problem. For example, the league does a regional draft. That means that teams get the chance to take players that play their college ball near the team. That means the Birmingham Iron will get the opportunity to draft players from Auburn or Alabama. With the players that Bama or Tiger fans got to watch and love in college, the fans will be more likely to go out and watch these guys. One example of this is Richardson. He won the Heisman Trophy at Bama before becoming a major NFL bust. Now he is playing for the Iron.
They also thought that cheap tickets would be a good way to bring in revenue. All tickets are 20 bucks. So if a fan bought a $20 ticket and goes to the game early enough than they could sit at the 50-yard line in the first row. That is cheaper than a bowl ticket for a terrible Louisville Cardinal team. This season I went to a Colts game and got tickets for just over $60. The tickets were just 20 rows from the top of Lucas Oil Stadium, so 20 bucks makes going to a game affordable.
Now, onto the future and local aspects of the AAF. Expansion football leagues typically do not last long. Just ask the P.O.T.U.S. and his USFL. But if the AAF could last long enough, it could become a true NFL minor league and stay in business for years to come like minor league baseball. For that to happen, the AAF will need to expand teams ever year until they have at least 16 teams. If the league adds two team for the next four years they would have the number they need. Then, NFL franchises would share an AAF team. The rules for this addition of a shared minor league team would probably be that both teams had to agree on all coaches. They would also have to be teams that are close to each other but not in the same divisions. For example, the Colts could share with the Bengals and the Steelers could share with the Eagles. This, however, would not last forever. Eventually the young league will add 16 more teams so it has 32 just like the NFL, with each team having one AAF team.
As the AAF expands, they should look to moving in Louisville at either Cardinal Stadium, the better of the two options, or Louisville Slugger Field, like Louisville FC has been doing. Louisville is a perfect expansion city because it has already shown that it can support minor league teams. Louisville City FC had the third highest attendance average in 2017. If Louisville fans will support a soccer team so enthusiastically, a football team should fit right in.
I also already have team name ideas, including the Louisville Thoroughbreds (Churchill Downs), Louisville Scandalmakers (U of L currently), and the Louisville Greatest (Muhammad Ali).
Plus, there are already five Power-Five conference teams (Notre Dame, Purdue, Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana) in Indiana and Kentucky. Those schools are going to produce some AAF players over the next 10 years so fans will go to watch the players they liked watching in college because of the Regional Draft.
Non-NFL football leagues have not been very successful. The AAF is the most recent attempt and hopefully it will be the first true football league to stick it out and merge with the NFL into a minor league for the NFL. If it does merge like the American Football League did 1969, it will be around for the long hall and a major part of America’s athletic future.