Alliance football league suspends operations after 8 games

AAF

Orlando Apollos running back D'Ernest Johnson (22) rushes in front of Atlanta Legends defenders during the first half of an Alliance of American Football game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

SAN DIEGO — Alliance of American Football co-founder Bill Polian said he’s been told that football operations have been suspended and that virtually everyone involved with the fledgling spring league will be terminated within 24 to 48 hours.

Polian declined to say where he got that information. He said Tuesday that he was waiting for official word from majority owner Tom Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

The former NFL executive, who built a Super Bowl winner with Indianapolis, said he was "extremely disappointed" with the apparent demise of the latest spring league.

"On the one hand it was kind of our wildest fantasies come true," Polian told The Associated Press. "It all came true and now it’s all come crashing down."

Asked why the league was shutting down, Polian said he’s heard "only that it’s about the money. That’s all."

He said the only people who will be kept on will be equipment managers and others who will shut down operations.

Earlier Tuesday, two people with knowledge of the situation told the AP that the league is suspending operations eight games into its first season. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because league officials were still working through details of the suspension. An announcement from the league is expected later Tuesday.

The San Diego Fleet cancelled practiced about a half hour before it was scheduled to start.

The AAF seemed to have a better chance of surviving than other alternative leagues, such as the USFL and the World League, because of the people and philosophies involved.

Polian and co-founder Charlie Ebersol, a television and film producer, envisioned it as a development league for the NFL with several rules tweaks designed to speed up play and make it safer. There were no kickoffs or PATs. Teams had to go for a two-point conversion after touchdowns.

"We were headed to a tremendous run of success, beginning with Saturday’s game leading into the Final Four on CBS," Polian told the AP. "Our league on the field has prospered and grown. The football’s gotten better, and that’s a tremendous tribute to the coaches and players and GMs and front office staff and all the other people who have done a phenomenal job."

Polian later said in a statement that when Dundon took over, it was his and Ebersol’s belief "that we would finish the season, pay our creditors and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all. The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity."

Memphis quarterback Johnny Manziel tweeted : "If you’re an AAF player and the league does dissolve. The last check you got will be the last one that you get. No lawsuit or anything else will get you your bread. Save your money and keep your head up. It’s the only choice at this point unless something drastic happens."

Manziel said in another tweet: "Just the reality of this unfortunate situation.. great concept, good football on the field and fun for fans to watch. Just not enough money to go around which has been the main problem with "other" leagues for a long time."

Among the league’s coaches were Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Mike Martz and Mike Riley. The league included teams in Orlando, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Birmingham and Memphis.

While it clearly wasn’t NFL-caliber football, it was entertaining and helped fill the post-Super Bowl void.

However, there were signs of trouble in a league put together in less than one year.

Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF shortly after play began. At the time, Ebersol said reports the Alliance was short on cash and needed a bailout from Dundon in order to make payroll were untrue. He said the league had a technical glitch in its payroll system that was fixed.

The AAF aspired to be a league for players with NFL hopes, but it could not reach agreement with the NFLPA to use players at the end of NFL rosters.

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