The AAF has arrived, so do you care?
The past weekend saw the debut of America’s newest professional football league, the Alliance of American Football, and observers are wondering whether the nation now has the appetite for a second outdoor professional football league.
The AAF is the brainchild of sports television producer Charlie Ebersol and respected former NFL executive Bill Polian. It is the first pro league with any sort of backing to roll out since the ill-fated single season of pro wrestling magnate Vince McMahon’s XFL in 2001.
The league consists of eight teams split into two four-team conferences, with the Western Conference concentrated in the southwest and the Eastern Conference concentrated in the southeast. The league is playing a 10-game schedule, with the championship game scheduled for April 27 in Las Vegas.
The main point about the AAF is that it’s not meant to be a competitor to the NFL. Past professional football leagues were launched with the intention of competing with the NFL. However, AAF executives have stated that the league’s intention is to complement the NFL, which explains why the season began the week after the Super Bowl. Player contracts — every player is signed to the same non-guaranteed three-year, $250,000 contract — contain an out should a player receive an opportunity in the NFL.
So while this isn’t an NFL-affiliated minor league, it is viewed as something of a developmental league for the NFL. The players are all attempting to use the AAF as a springboard to the NFL. This includes players like Meadowdale High School graduate and Arizona Hotshots tight end Connor Hamlett, who have NFL experience. It also includes players who haven’t played above college football. But each team has several names that savvy football fans will recognize.
The AAF has small differences in game play from the NFL. The play clock is shorter and there are no media timeouts, meaning games should have a faster pace and be completed in a shorter time. There also are no kickoffs, and on extra points teams are required to go for two.
There is some local involvement in the AAF. Archbishop Murphy High School graduate Taniela Tupou started at defensive tackle and had five tackles and a sack in the San Diego Fleet’s 15-6 loss to the San Antonio Commanders. Hamlett had one target and no catches in Arizona’s 38-22 victory over Salt Lake Stallions, who are coached by Everett High School graduate Dennis Erickson.
The big question is whether there’s interest in the AAF. Announced attendance for the league’s first four games ranged from 15,000 to 27,857, though photos from the game in Arizona lead one to wonder whether that 15,000 number is truly accurate. The games were also on television, with two broadcast on network by CBS while the other two were on cable on the CBS Sports Network and the NFL Network. The initial TV ratings were encouraging. The remainder of the league’s games will be televised on cable or streamed online.
The Pacific Northwest has no rooting stake in the AAF, with no team within 700 miles. But people do love football. How about you? Do you have any interest in the AAF? Let us know here: