In January 2018, Vince McMahan held a press conference that was streamed through Twitter, YouTube and the WWE app to announce the return of the XFL in the Spring of 2020. Touting safety, a fun fan experience and “respect for the flag”, they set their sights squarely on the same audience that the NFL seems to be losing.
Roughly two months later, a much quieter announcement about a Spring Football league emerged. Headed by Charlie Ebersol, the son of the President of NBC, overseen by the likes of Bill Polian (oh boy), Troy Polamalu (oh boy!) and J.K. McCay with an advisory board that includes Hines Ward, Jared Allen and Justin Tuck, the AAF launched themselves into the conversation with a solid plan in place. The intent of the AAF is to create an entertaining Spring League where the various alumni may find their way to an NFL Roster or at least training camp. There also seems to be intent to reach out to high school players: league players will earn a year’s scholarship for each year they play in the league while also earning a salary and a potential bonus based on “fan interaction”. This would give incentive to an 18 year old who believes they can make the NFL within a few years time, allowing them to develop scholarship funds and actually earn money.
The league will be 10-weeks long and begin the weekend after the Super Bowl with a nationally televised game on CBS. There will be one nationally televised game aired via CBS Sports Network each week with the rest of the games being available via the league’s app. The league’s postseason will conclude in time for fall camp so that any players who intend to try out for the NFL or who get an NFL offer will have the ability to attend team events. There will also be a few notable rule changes when compared to the NFL:
- Teams will have 50 players on each roster, with some selected by a territorial draft.
- Telecasts will feature no television timeouts and 60 percent fewer commercials, with the league aiming for an approximate real-time game length of 150 minutes, down from just over 180 in the NFL.
- All teams must attempt two-point conversions after each touchdown; there will be no extra point kicks.
- There will be no kickoffs; all possessions will begin on each team’s own 25-yard line, the same as touchbacks in the NFL and NCAA. The team on defense can keep the ball, in lieu of an onside kick, by attempting a scrimmage play from their own 35-yard line and gaining at least 10 yards.
- The play clock will run only 30 seconds, 10 seconds shorter than in the NFL.
- Two coach’s challenges per team are the only replays.
- Outside organizations will handle head-safety protocols.
The Alliance has done a slow rollout of league team locations and coaches with the names of each team to come down the road. So far teams have been announced for Orlando and Atlanta with 6 more markets remaining (personally hoping for Birmingham, but Atlanta is too close for that to be a reality, that may happen with the first expansion though). The Orlando team will be coached by Steve Spurrier with the Atlanta team coached by Brad Childress with Michael Vick at the helm of the offense.
I really like these moves simply because they’ve done a better job at getting name recognition than previous spring leagues ever did (hello UFL). Michael Vick as an Offensive Coordinator will attract attention, and while Steve Spurrier isn’t as big of a name to younger audiences as Michael Vick, he will bring in an older demographic that may be more willing to buy tickets and attend the actual games.
So why am I so high on this league?
Well for one, they showed up (out of nowhere) with a fully detailed plan. While it may seem like they haven’t announced much they’ve displayed how that isn’t their style. They’re slowly releasing the news, bit by bit, until the fall arrives when we inevitably get swept into college and professional football. When it’s all over and we begin hungering for more, they’ll kick off just in time with surely plenty of promotion. If Birmingham DOES get a team, I will be over the moon and attending as many games as I can, however, I would be just as thrilled if Memphis got a much deserved team.
They’re also not actively courting the crowd that the XFL is, which could be a REALLY good thing.
A lot of that are my own hopes and ambitions after seeing the people on board with this project, after all, they are some very respectable and trusted names who have been activists in their own right. I’m hoping they don’t stifle the voice of any players who want to champion their own causes.
What do you think? Do you believe Spring Football can actually work again? Are you looking forward to what the AAF is trying to do? Chat with us on Twitter at @TheKWCBlog