The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a minor professional American football league, founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. It began play on February 9, 2019, six days after the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl LIII championship game. The AAF consists of eight centrally owned and operated teams. All teams except Salt Lake are located in cities on or south of the 35th parallel and all teams except Birmingham are located in metropolitan areas that have at least one major professional sports franchise. Of the eight teams in the league, all but Arizona and Atlanta are located in markets lacking an NFL team.
|Alliance of American Football|
|Current season, competition or edition:|
2019 AAF season
|Founded||March 20, 2018|
|No. of teams||8|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California|
Filmmaker Charlie Ebersol was inspired to create the AAF in late 2016 after producing the documentary This Was the XFL for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series; upon researching and examining the history of the XFL, he came to the conclusion that the concept was viable but that the finished product was both poorly executed and, from an on-field standpoint, bad football. He began developing the AAF in December 2017, about the same time that word had come out about XFL co-founder Vince McMahon possibly reviving the old XFL brand. Exhibits in a lawsuit filed by Robert Vanech, who claimed to have co-founded the AAF, state that Ebersol had originally approached McMahon about relaunching the XFL but was unable to come to an agreement, as Ebersol wanted control of the XFL brand and was willing to pay $50 million for the trademark, which McMahon was unwilling to sell.
The AAF was announced on March 20, 2018. Ebersol sought to focus on creating a solid football product in the hopes that it would attract fans. He hired a team of experienced football players, coaches and executives to prepare the league for launch. The AAF is overseen by former NFL general manager Bill Polian, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and executive J. K. McKay. Advisers also include former Steelers receiver Hines Ward, former New York Giants and Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck, retired referee and current Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira, and Ebersol's father, retired NBC Sports executive (and co-founder of the original XFL) Dick Ebersol.
Ebersol attended the first XFL game in Las Vegas in 2001, and remembered how disappointed his father was by the poor quality of play. To ensure professional-level football at launch, the AAF set out to hire coaches with professional football coaching and championship experience. On April 7, 2018, the first team, Orlando, was announced with its coach Steve Spurrier. By June 2018, the league had announced its eight inaugural teams and their cities.
On July 30, 2018, the Alliance announced the league had signed 100 players. In August 2018, the league held the Alliance Scouting Combine at three locations and four dates: August 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, California; August 18 in Houston, Texas; and August 25–26 in Atlanta, Georgia. By August 24, 2018, 205 players were signed. These dates provided an opportunity for players cut at the NFL roster deadline, and each player signed a three-year contract worth $250,000 (with a $70,000 salary in 2019), with performance-based and fan-interaction incentives allowing for players to earn more.
In July 2018, Starter, through G-III Sports, which manufactured NFL jerseys in the 1980s and 1990s, was named the official on-field apparel and game-day uniform supplier for the AAF, marking a return for the brand to professional football. On September 20, the league announced four eastern inaugural franchises' names and logos. The western four teams were revealed five days later.
In late February 2019, a lawsuit by a venture capitalist in Los Angeles became public, as the AAF issued a statement denying a claim by Robert Vanech that the league was his idea and that he had a handshake agreement with Charlie Ebersol; Vanech is seeking financial damages and 50 percent ownership of the league.
In early March 2019, it was revealed by Bill Polian that the AAF and National Football League were in informal discussions about a system where players under contract to NFL teams could be loaned to AAF teams. The idea would be for NFL teams to assign their No. 3 quarterback and other players from the bottom half of their roster and practice squads to the AAF to gain more playing time in a similar system to what used to be in place during the existence of NFL Europe. This would in effect make the AAF an official developmental league of the NFL.
On October 16, 2018, the Alliance announced its schedule (indicating the day and location, but not the time, of each game) which has two games each on Saturday and on Sunday most weekends. Quarterback skills training camps were held at the Alamodome in San Antonio on November 12 through 14. On November 27, the league held a four-round "Protect or Pick" quarterback draft in the Esports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas and broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
The AAF began its inaugural, 10-week season on February 9, 2019. The first points in AAF regular season history were scored by kicker Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Legends, who made a 38-yard field goal against the Orlando Apollos. The first touchdown came in the same game with Orlando quarterback Garrett Gilbert connecting with Jalin Marshall for a 16-yard score. The first shutout was recorded by the Birmingham Iron when they defeated the Memphis Express, 26–0, in Week 1. The first onside conversion (see Rules section, below) was attempted during Week 3, with Atlanta successfully completing a 48-yard pass against Birmingham. The first safety was registered by Atlanta against the Arizona Hotshots in Week 4.
In late February, the league revealed that it had been unable to secure a league-wide worker's compensation insurance policy prior to the start of the season, forcing the Orlando Apollos to move its practice operations to Kingsland, Georgia, and commute to Orlando for games, as Florida does not consider professional athletes to be eligible for worker's compensation.
A four-team playoff is to be capped with the league's championship game at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas on April 27. Although Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas was originally announced as the host site, the game was moved to Frisco in March at the behest of its majority investor Thomas Dundon, who negotiated the move with Jerry Jones, owner of the Ford Center.
|Team||City||Stadium||Capacity||First season||Head coach|
|Atlanta Legends||Atlanta, Georgia||Georgia State Stadium||24,333||2019||Kevin Coyle|
|Birmingham Iron||Birmingham, Alabama||Legion Field||71,594||Tim Lewis|
|Memphis Express||Memphis, Tennessee||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||58,325||Mike Singletary|
|Orlando Apollos||Orlando, Florida||Spectrum Stadium||44,206||Steve Spurrier|
|Arizona Hotshots||Tempe, Arizona||Sun Devil Stadium||57,078||2019||Rick Neuheisel|
|Salt Lake Stallions||Salt Lake City, Utah||Rice–Eccles Stadium||45,807||Dennis Erickson|
|San Antonio Commanders||San Antonio, Texas||Alamodome||64,000||Mike Riley|
|San Diego Fleet||San Diego, California||SDCCU Stadium||70,561||Mike Martz|
Ebersol deliberately avoided making radical changes to the rules of the game so as to make it recognizable to the U.S. public. He stated that he used the average length of a feature film, slightly over two hours, as the basis for a typical fan's attention span.
The Alliance operates as a single entity, with all teams owned and operated by the league, under the name Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC. Some of the investors in the AAF include Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, The Chernin Group (which owns Barstool Sports), Jared Allen, Slow Ventures, Adrian Fenty, Charles King's M Ventures, and Keith Rabois. On February 18, 2019, the league announced that Tom Dundon, whose other holdings include the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL) and TopGolf, agreed to invest $250 million into the league. He was also named the new chairman of the AAF, and Dundon reportedly received a majority stake in the league in exchange for his investment. Dundon's investment was initially reported to be due to the league being in danger of not making payroll. It was later reported that the payroll issue was due to a glitch in the league's changing of payroll companies, and that Dundon's investment had already been planned. Dundon noted, however, that the league "had the commitments to last a long time, but maybe not the money in the bank." He also later backtracked on his previous claim of a $250 million investment, noting that he had not actually delivered a $250 million lump sum to the league. Dundon plans on incrementally investing in the league, using $250 million as a theoretical maximum based on if the league were to "aggressively expand," and reserved the right to pull out of the league at any time.
Ebersol had admitted prior to the start of the season that, on numerous occasions, the AAF had come dangerously close to folding before its first game due to various unstated complications. When asked whether some of the AAF's initial investors had dropped out, Ebersol declined to answer.
MGM Resorts International made an investment in the AAF tech platform, and entered a three-year sponsorship agreement to become the league's official sports betting sponsor and exclusive gaming partner. The deal marks the first time any sports organization has sold exclusive in-game betting rights to a sportsbook. Scott Butera, MGM's director of interactive gaming (the division that signed an agreement with the AAF), was formerly the commissioner of the Arena Football League before his 2018 ouster.
The league also has player bonuses and scholarships, with player bonuses based on performance and fan interaction, players earn a year's scholarship in post-secondary education for each season of play. Players get three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000 plus health insurance with an escape clause to go to the NFL. The three-year contract is believed to be purposely targeting the XFL to prevent second-tier professional players from signing with the XFL if they play in the AAF in 2019. The league also has an incentive system that pays members of a team's offensive and defensive units for statistical achievements and also pays players to perform community service; the exact details of this incentive system were not yet finalized at the start of the 2019 season. Players are assigned to each team by way of a centralized process that is largely a trade secret. For the fans, in addition to a fantasy league built into mobile broadcasts, there are low ticket prices (each team have a $35/game sideline seat option) and inexpensive food at games.
The AAF coaching salaries vary by title, with $500,000 for head coaches, $200–250,000 for coordinators, and $75–150,000 for position coaches. Each AAF team employs between 11 and 13 total coaches, putting the total coaching staff expenditures at around $2 million per staff and $16 million for the entire league.
As part of its formation, the AAF announced broadcast deals with CBS Sports; opening day (consisting of two regionally-televised games) was scheduled for CBS, as well as a playoff semifinal and the championship game. The telecasts make extensive use of on-field microphones (with head coaches and quarterbacks also miked), and Skycams (with two deployed for each game, with one along the sideline, as opposed to having more than one high camera). Half of the games broadcast each week are produced off-site from Sneaky Big Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona: graphics (which were co-produced by CBS), Skycam operations, and commentary are performed remotely from the Scottsdale site, as well as studio coverage for all games (which is produced from a virtual set at the facility). None of the AAF's broadcast partners are paying the league any money in rights fees, as the networks were not willing to lose money on their deals; Ebersol did not disclose whether or not they were buying the airtime or receiving the airtime for free as part of a partnership agreement. All networks showing the Alliance use CBS Sports’ graphics, and are mostly produced by CBS, although the TNT, B/R Live, and NFL Network games are shown with the network name after the league name, for instance, the Alliance of American Football on TNT or the Alliance of American Football on NFL Network.
CBS Sports Network airs at least one game per week and one of the playoff games. Due to contractual agreements, the AAF themselves can not livestream games onbroadcast on CBS Sports Network. CBS broadcast an ad for the league during its coverage of Super Bowl LIII. In addition to local stations, TNT was announced as broadcasting two games per season (one regular season and a playoff game which later was expanded to include three regular season games) while NFL Network airs two weekly games. The league's mobile app offers live streaming of all games except those broadcast on CBS Sports Network, as well as provides integrated fantasy games, while Turner's B/R Live streams one game a week.
CBSSN's game of the week is called by Ben Holden, Adam Archuleta, and John Schriffen. NFL Network's broadcast team for week one consists of Dan Hellie on play-by-play and Marvin Lewis on color commentary. TNT's broadcast team consists of Brian Anderson on play-by-play, Lewis on color commentary, and Maurice Jones-Drew as sideline reporter. The league does not use set announcer pairings, rotating numerous hosts (several of them from the NFL on CBS and the SEC on CBS) on both play-by-play and color commentary, depending on availability.
The AAF received mixed to positive reviews opening night. Profootballtalk.com, in a mostly positive review, praised the league's television product and choice of markets that would embrace the league, singling out the live look-ins at the replay booth during coach's challenges as an innovation that could transfer to the NFL's television broadcasts. The on-field level of play was somewhat less well-received, being compared to NFL preseason levels, with numerous offensive miscues. SB Nation had a similar assessment, criticizing the game play as "much worse than... most of major college football," while at the same time noting that the league's innovations were largely successful in making games more interesting. In an admittedly incomplete review, Peter King stated that although he would not yet draw any "major conclusions" about the league, he liked some of the rule changes but feared the overtime process would be a gimmick.
Overnight Nielsen Ratings stated that the league-opening regionally televised games on CBS were the highest rated telecast of the night in the key demographic, drawing more viewers than an NBA game on ABC in the same time slot. In overall viewers, both the AAF and NBA lost to a rerun of America's Got Talent: The Champions on NBC. The NFL Network telecast that week secured 640,000 viewers. With these comparatively strong initial viewership statistics, the Week 2 ratings were highly anticipated in the interest of developing trended data. In Week 2, the afternoon and evening games on Saturday, February 16, reportedly attracted 1,018,000 and 425,000 viewers, respectively, in addition to the Sunday evening game on February 17 drawing 424,000 viewers. Week 3's NFL Network games drew 491,000 and 515,000 viewers, benefiting in part due to a counterprogramming effort against the 91st Academy Awards. Week 4's ratings were largely consistent with those of week 2, with the two NFL Network games that week securing ratings of 404,000 and 450,000 viewers, comparable to college basketball and NHL telecasts on the other sports networks. The disparity between the afternoon and evening games is consistent due to increased competition during primetime hours and the higher market penetration of CBS and TNT compared to NFL Network and CBS Sports Network.
In March 2019, building upon these ratings successes, both CBS and TNT added games to their packages; TNT added two additional Saturday afternoon games previously scheduled for B/R Live (which would air special Skycam-only broadcasts of the games as a companion instead), while CBS announced that it would shift two games from CBS Sports Network to broadcast television, including a regular season game on April 6, 2019 (which will lead towards CBS's broadcast of the 2019 NCAA Final Four), and one of the conference championship games.
Per terms of the deal, MGM also will invest in the AAF tech platform, ...
The 2019 AAF season is the first season in the history of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). The season began on February 9, 2019, and will be capped with a four-team playoff starting on April 20, 2019, and a championship game to be played at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on April 27.Alex Flanagan
Alex Flanagan (née Wystrach) (born September 22, 1972) is an American sportscaster who is a graduate of the University of Arizona and Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, Arizona. She works for the NFL Network.Arizona Hotshots
The Arizona Hotshots are a professional American football team based in Tempe, Arizona, and one of the charter members of the Alliance of American Football, which began play in February 2019. They play their home games at Sun Devil Stadium on the campus of Arizona State University. The Hotshots are one of two AAF teams based in a city that already has a NFL team (the Arizona Cardinals; the other team is the Atlanta Legends, where the NFL's Falcons are based). They are coached by former USFL player and college head coach Rick Neuheisel. Scott Brubaker is the team president and Phil Savage is the general manager.Atlanta Legends
The Atlanta Legends are a professional American football team based in Atlanta, Georgia, and are charter members of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), which began play in February 2019. They play their home games at Georgia State Stadium on the campus of the Georgia State University. They are coached by Kevin Coyle, one of two current AAF coaches without prior head coaching experience. The Legends are also one of two AAF teams alongside the Arizona Hotshots (which is home to the Arizona Cardinals) to be based in a city that has an NFL team (the Atlanta Falcons).Bill Polian
William Patrick Polian, Jr. (born December 8, 1942) is an American football executive. He rose to league prominence as the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills, building a team that participated in four straight Super Bowls—the most consecutive appearances by any team—but lost each time. Following his stint in Buffalo, Polian went on to become the General Manager of the expansion Carolina Panthers. He then served as President and General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League from 1998 to 2011, where they reached two Super Bowls, winning XLI. He subsequently served as an NFL analyst for ESPN. Polian was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2018, Polian co-founded the Alliance of American Football.Birmingham Iron
The Birmingham Iron is a professional American football team based in Birmingham, Alabama, and are charter members of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). The team began play in 2019, playing its home games at Legion Field until a new stadium at the Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex has completed construction. The new stadium is expected to be completed in 2021.Dick Ebersol
Duncan "Dick" Ebersol (; born July 28, 1947) is an American television executive and a senior adviser for NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.He had previously been the chairman of NBC Sports, producing large-scale television events such as the Olympic Games and National Football League (NFL) broadcasts.Gary Danielson
Gary Dennis Danielson (born September 10, 1951) is a former professional American football player and a current college football commentator. Danielson was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL). He played for the Detroit Lions from 1976 to 1984 and for the Cleveland Browns in 1985, 1987, and 1988. He is currently working for CBS Sports as a commentator for its college football coverage; he previously held the same position for ABC Sports.John McKay Jr.
John Kenneth "J.K." McKay (born March 28, 1953) is a former American football player, trial attorney, and executive with positions at the Alliance of American Football and the University of Southern California. As a professional athlete, McKay played wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1976 to 1978.Mark Malone
Mark M. Malone (born November 22, 1958 in El Cajon, California) is a former American football quarterback in the NFL.Matt "Money" Smith
Matt "Money" Smith (born August 28, 1973) is an American sports radio personality. He is currently the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Chargers.Memphis Express
The Memphis Express are a professional American football team based in Memphis, Tennessee, and a charter team of the Alliance of American Football, which began play in February 2019. They play their home games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, and are coached by former National Football League player and head coach Mike Singletary.Mike Pereira
Mike Pereira (born April 13, 1950) is a former American football official and later Vice President of Officiating for the National Football League (NFL). Since 2010, he has served as a rules analyst for Fox Sports. He is of Portuguese descent.Orlando Apollos
The Orlando Apollos are a professional American football team based in Orlando, Florida, and are charter members of the Alliance of American Football, which began play in February 2019. The team plays its home games at Spectrum Stadium on the campus of the University of Central Florida. They are coached by Heisman Trophy winner and former college and National Football League (NFL) head coach Steve Spurrier. NFL front office veteran Tim Ruskell is the general manager and longtime college athletics executive Michael P. Waddell is the team president.
The team's name is inspired by the Greek god Apollo, and his and Florida's connections to the Sun, while the team's colors of orange and navy are tributes to Florida's sunshine and the Apollo program, respectively. The helmet depicts Apollo shooting a bow-and-arrow, as he is commonly pictured as an archer.Salt Lake Stallions
The Salt Lake Stallions are a professional American football team based in Salt Lake City and one of the charter members of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), which began play in February 2019. The Stallions are the northernmost team in the AAF, as the league's only franchise north of the 35th parallel. The team's head coach is Dennis Erickson, who has a 179–96–1 record coaching college football and a 40–56 record coaching in the NFL.San Antonio Commanders
The San Antonio Commanders are a professional American football team based in San Antonio, Texas, and a charter team of the Alliance of American Football. The league began play in February 2019, and the team plays its home games at the Alamodome.San Diego Fleet
The San Diego Fleet are a professional American football team based in San Diego, California and are charter members of the Alliance of American Football. The league began play in February 2019, with the team playing its home games at SDCCU Stadium. They are coached by former NFL head coach Mike Martz. The team is currently one of two active professional football teams playing in San Diego, along with the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League, and the first since the former San Diego Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017.Thomas Dundon
Thomas Dundon (born 1972) is an American businessman, specializing in financial services and entertainment. He serves as Chairman and Managing Partner of Dundon Capital Partners in Dallas, Texas and is the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League as well as the chairman of the Alliance of American Football. Dundon is also the primary landowner of Portland, Michigan.Troy Polamalu
Troy Aumua Polamalu (; born Troy Aumua; April 19, 1981) is a former American football strong safety of Samoan descent who played his entire twelve-year career for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Southern California (USC) and earned consensus All-American honors. He was chosen by the Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was a member of two of the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Polamalu is an eight time Pro-Bowler and a six time All-Pro selection. He is also the Head of Player Relations of the Alliance of American Football.
Alliance of American Football (2019)
Professional gridiron football leagues in North America