Official ERA expert on Third Party Football
- Nov 2, 2017
The weekend after the Super Bowl is one of the saddest times of the year for football fans. It means no more games until August, but a new spring football league starts up this February that seeks to become a new developmental league for the NFL.
The Alliance of American Football, or AAF, was founded in 2018 and its first game will be on February 9th, on the Saturday following Super Bowl LIII. The season runs through Sunday, April 14. That's followed immediately by a four-team playoff with the two higher seeds hosting the semifinals. The championship game will be held in Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium, home of the UNLV Rebels, on April 27.
The new football league is co-founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian a veteran NFL executive for decades. The pair are joined by former NFL stars Hines Ward — who will serve as an executive of player relations — and Troy Polamalu, another former Steeler and AAF's head of player relations.
Unlike the United States Football League (USFL) of the 1980s, the AAF isn’t meant to compete with the NFL. Instead, it’s meant to offer a form of televised football with a fantasy league option during the NFL’s offseason, and paid opportunities for athletes who find themselves out of the NFL.
“Our objective is to take some of those people who can’t quite make it and make them into quality NFL players,” Polian told ESPN in August.
People to know
Charlie Ebersol, CEO/Co-founder: If the Ebersol name sounds familiar, it should. Charlie, co-founder of THE Company, is the oldest son of longtime NBC television exec Dick Ebersol, whose many impacts on TV programming included his involvement in the original XFL. (Dick is also on the AAF Board of Directors.) However, Charlie's name and resume stands on its own merit. Ebersol has produced a number of shows and directed the ESPN 30 for 30 "This Was the XFL."
Bill Polian, Head of Football/Co-founder: Along with Ebersol, Polian acts as one of the central components of the AAF braintrust. The former Indianapolis Colts GM is the primary gear that makes the wheels turn for the operation. His duties included creating the formula by which the AAF's teams allocate talent from college, NFL and CFL teams. Additionally, former Titans and Rams coach Jeff Fisher is assisting in this process as a liaison between the coaches and the single entity's front office.
J.K. McKay, Head of Football Operations: The son of former USC and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay, "J.K." played for his father twice: once with the Trojans and again with the Bucs. He's a leading figure in the details of the game that make the AAF unique from other pro leagues.
Hines Ward, Head of Football Development: The former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout and Super Bowl champion is a key component in the hiring of three female assistant coaches within the AAF: Jennifer King of the Arizona Hotshots, Jen Welter of the Atlanta Legends and Lo Locust of the Birmingham Iron.
The AAF will consist of eight teams:
These teams will consist of 52 players each, with some selected by a regional draft. These regions are split with at least five colleges, a CFL team, and four NFL teams.
- Atlanta Legends
- Birmingham Iron
- Memphis Express
- Orlando Apollos
- Arizona Hotshots
- Salt Lake Stallions
- San Antonio Commanders
- San Diego Fleet
Each team will feature players that last played in college or at an NFL team closest to their city.
Arizona Hotshots- Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers
Atlanta Legends- Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins
Birmingham Iron- New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers
Memphis Express- Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans
Orlando Apollos- Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Salt Lake Stallions- Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks
San Antonio Commanders- Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles
San Diego Fleet- Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders
College Football affiliation
Arizona Hotshots- Arizona, Arizona State, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, Northwestern, Oregon State, Texas Tech, UCLA, UTEP, Washington State
Atlanta Legends- Albany State, Clark Atlanta, Clemson, Fort Valley State, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Louisville, Mercer, Morehouse, North Carolina, Savannah State, Shorter, Valdosta State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Georgia
Birmingham Iron- Alabama, Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Auburn, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Jacksonville State, Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Miles College, Mississippi State, NC State, North Alabama, Missouri, Samford, South Alabama, South Carolina, Troy, Tuskegee, UAB, West Alabama
Memphis Express- Arkansas, Austin Peay, Carson–Newman, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Kentucky, Lane College, LSU, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, Tusculum, UT Martin, Vanderbilt
Orlando Apollos- Bethune-Cookman, Florida, Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State,Florida Tech, Jacksonville, Miami (FL), Stetson, South Florida, UCF, West Florida
Salt Lake Stallions- Air Force, Arkansas, Boise State, BYU, California, Colorado State, Dixie State, Idaho, Idaho State, Northern Colorado, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Southern Utah, Utah, Utah State, Weber State, Wyoming
San Antonio Commanders- Abilene Christian, Angelo State, Baylor, Houston, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, Lamar, Midwestern State, North Texas, Oklahoma, Prairie View A&M, Rice, Sam Houston, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas A&M–Kingsville, Texas–Permian Basin, Texas Southern, Texas State, UTSA, West Texas A&M
San Diego Fleet- Arkansas, Azusa Pacific, Cal Poly, Fresno State, Hawaii, Humboldt State, Sacramento State, San Diego, San Diego State, San Jose State, Stanford, UC Davis, UNLV, USC, Washington
There will be a number of household names on the sideline in the AAF. The head coach for each team is as follows:
There are also some assistant coaches you may recognize:
- Kevin Coyle (Atlanta Legends)
- Tim Lewis (Birmingham Iron)
- Mike Singletary (Memphis Express)
- Steve Spurrier (Orlando Apollos)
- Rick Neuheisel (Arizona Hotshots)
- Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake Stallions)
- Mike Riley (San Antonio Commanders)
- Mike Martz (San Diego Fleet)
- Michael Vick (Atlanta Legends offensive coordinator)
- Bob Sanders (Orlando Apollos defensive coordinator)
- Dennis Thurman (Memphis Express defensive coordinator)
- Jon Kitna (San Diego Fleet offensive coordinator)
Here's a rundown of some of the more notable names on each team entering 2019:
Arizona Hotshots (Schedule)
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium
General Manager: Phil Savage
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Players to know: RB Jhurrell Pressley, OT Malcolm Bunche, DB Rahim Moore, LB Obum Gwacham, QB Trevor Knight
Atlanta Legends (Schedule)
Stadium: Georgia State Stadium
General Manager: Bill Devaney
Head Coach: Kevin Coyle
Players to know: QB Aaron Murray, RB Denard Robinson, LB Jeff Luc, DE J.T. Jones
Birmingham Iron (Schedule)
Stadium: Legion Field
General Manager: Joe Pendry
Head Coach: Tim Lewis
Players to know: RB Trent Richardson, TE Weslye Saunders, QB Luis Perez
Memphis Express (Schedule)
Stadium: Liberty Bowl
General Manager: Will Lewis
Head Coach: Mike Singletary
Players to know: WR Kayaune Ross, LB DeMarquis Gates, CB Justin Martin, DL Anthony Johnson, RB Kenny Hilliard
Orlando Apollos (Schedule)
Stadium: Spectrum Stadium
General Manager: Tim Ruskell
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Players to know: QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Akeem Hunt, WR Brian Tyms, DL Jerel Worthy, LB Terence Garvin
Salt Lake Stallions (Schedule)
Stadium: Rice-Eccles Stadium
General Manager: Randy Mueller
Head Coach: Dennis Erickson
Players to know: QB B.J. Daniels, WR Kaelin Clay, WR Kenny Bell
San Antonio Commanders (Schedule)
General Manager: Daryl "Moose" Johnston
Head Coach: Mike Riley
Players to know: QB Dustin Vaughan, RB Kenneth Farrow II, WR Mekale McKay, LB Jayrone Elliott, DB Orion Stewart
San Diego Fleet (Schedule)
Stadium: SDCCU Stadium
General Manager: David Boller
Head Coach: Mike Martz
Players to know: QB Mike Bercovici, WR Kameron Kelly, TE Gavin Escobar, DE Alex Barrett, LB Eric Pinkins
The Alliance of American Football and NFL Network today announced a multi-year programming deal that will include live event coverage of The Alliance inaugural season. NFL Network will debut their Alliance coverage with The Salt Lake Stallions at The Arizona Hotshots on Sunday, February 10 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT.
Following The Alliance's opening weekend, NFL Network will air two games per week in primetime on Saturday and Sunday night.
NFL Network will join CBS, CBS SN, TNT, and B/R Live to stream and broadcast The Alliance of American Football games this season.
The Turner deal will see TNT televise one regular season and one playoff game each season. This season, TNT will carry its game (Salt Lake Stallions-Birmingham Iron) on Feb. 16 as a lead-in to NBA All-Star Saturday Night. Turner’s B/R Live will carry a free weekly game, starting Feb. 23 with the Arizona Hotshots-Stallions.
The day of the AAF’s inaugural season-opening game on Feb. 9, B/R Live will stream a special program that introduces fans to the new eight-team football league. Additionally, all Alliance games on B/R Live will be available for replay on demand, with Turner having the right to post highlights across all of Bleacher Report’s digital and social platforms.
Unique features of AAF
Ebersol has made it a point to note that there's more that makes the AAF and the NFL similar than different. That said, the AAF has introduced a handful of interesting, key differences that separate it from the NFL.
- Play clock: The AAF's play clock will be 35 seconds, five seconds shorter than the NFL's. Anything less, Ebersol believes, will actually make the games longer due to sloppier play that results in stoppages through incomplete passes, penalties and the like.
- Timeouts/challenges: There are no television timeouts during games and an ongoing effort to have fewer commercials to reduce overall game time to roughly 150 minutes instead of 180 minutes in the NFL. Additionally, replays will be limited to two coach's challenges for either team.
- Kickoffs: There are no kickoffs; instead, teams will start drives from their own 25-yard lines. In lieu of an onside kick, each team will have a "fourth-and-10" from their 35-yard line. If the offense converts for a first down, it keeps the ball. These alterations were designed not only with player safety in mind, but as a reaction to what NFL fans find to be among the least interesting parts of the game.
- Two-point conversions: There will be no extra point attempts after touchdowns, only two-point conversions.
- Overtimes: To help keep games within a two-and-a-half hour time slot, there will be one overtime session. Each team will start an offensive possession from the 10-yard line, and just like in regulation, two-point conversions are required. Games can end in a tie after the overtime period.
Compensation for the league’s players is unique in a few ways. First, they are expected to get non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000 over three years. Next, they will be given scholarships. For each year played in the league, players will receive scholarships for education, in addition to what has been referred to as “post-football-career planning and counseling.” Finally, they will receive bonuses for performance in three categories: winning, reaching stat milestones, and “fan engagement.”
“For the first time in professional sports, we’re creating something around fan engagement bonuses,” Ebersol said. “We’re looking to incentivize both the fan and the player to have a symbiotic relationship, where the better the player does, the fan has the ability to reward that — not just as a player on the field, but on your fantasy team, socializing with you during the week, the charitable work they do and the support structure…What if I said to you, ‘OK, you come and play in my league, and the better you do in engaging your fans, the more you make?’ We think that’s the way to do it.”
Every player, from the starting quarterback to a backup safety, is on a non-guaranteed three-year, $250,000 deal. However, players can earn bonuses in a variety of ways, including performances and through fan engagement. Performance-based bonuses are handed out via "coins" to entire sides of the ball, offense and/or defense, instead of individual players.
The AAF will offer numerous player benefits, including:
-Free housing during the season
-Free health insurance for their family
-Paid salary during training camp and mini-camp
-Educational programs for post-football careers in financial literacy, career development, and post-secondary education