AAFL Postmortem

Apparently, the AAFL is no more, not even having had the chance to play a game. It was a great idea in theory, but I don’t know that I’d pay $15 a game to watch washed up has-beens and young guys who couldn’t make the NFL go at it. Maybe I’d pay $15 for the whole season, but not per game. It’s a moot point now that I have moved from Florida to Charlotte, but if I was still in the state I probably would have made a trip to see a game just to see what it would have been like. Well, it turns out money is the hangup for the whole league too.

Mike Bianchi, who broke the story as far as I can tell, even posted a communication he got from league officials saying that “the League’s finances have been indirectly tied to the $300 billion federally guaranteed student loan asset backed securities market.” It goes on to explain that the subprime mortgage collapse dried up all the liquidity for the league, so nothing short of either a financial market recovery (which is looking increasingly unlikely to happen in a timely fashion) or new ownership, combined with a TV contract, will save an ’08 start. JP LF Raycom Sports might be feasible for televising it, but not a national network. Or maybe the Big Ten Network, since no one will be watching it after basketball season anyway. The league will likely be “postponed to ’09,” which must be some kind of code language for “folded.”

The Florida Fighting Don’t-Have-an-Official-Mascots¬†probably won’t be defending the Swamp after all.

In the end, the problem is that the AAFL will never be field top-shelf football. Much as Colin Cowherd gets on my nerves, he made a good point a few months back: Americans don’t like watching sports that aren’t the highest level. It’s why the XFL failed, the AFL is a curiosity, the WNBA doesn’t make money, and the USFL eventually went under. The MLS isn’t just unpopular because Americans don’t like soccer that much, but also because it’s not the best soccer in the world and we know it – the European Premier League is the best, and it’s played in the middle of the night. Did I mention Americans don’t watch tape-delayed sports? Yeah, we don’t watch tape-delayed sports. So, the AAFL was doomed from the start. Only the ABA managed to stay afloat long enough to merge with the top league (the NBA), and that’s because it was so different and had players who were among the best in the world. No NFL team will be on the phone with AAFL Florida negotiating a buyout for Eric Kresser.

Well, the AAFL website is still up and running, presumably trying to drum up support and excitement despite the fact the league has about a 1% chance of playing games in 2008. It still includes information on all the teams and even has a PDF of the draft. I was curious to see just who was signing up for this, so while watching Mythbusters reruns to kill time waiting for Super Smash Bros. Brawl to release tonight at midnight, I converted the PDF table to a CSV then to a database to pull out what interesting information I could find.

Anything to hasten your arrival, including stats on a draft of a failed football league!

In total, 138 colleges are represented, shockingly including Ivy Leaguers Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale. Most BCS schools have players who were drafted, though only 159 of the 300 players chosen came from BCS schools (53%). A quick rundown of conferences:

  • ACC: 10 of 12 schools represented (83%)
  • Big 12: 10 of 12 schools represented (83%)
  • Big East: 5 of 8 schools represented (62.5%)
  • Big Ten: 11 of 11 schools represented (100%)
  • Independents: Notre Dame represented
  • Pac 10: 7 of 10 schools represented (70%)
  • SEC: 9 of 12 schools represented (75%)

So, despite 4 of the 6 charter AAFL teams being partnered with SEC schools, the SEC is only the fourth-best represented of the BCS conferences. That has to be the biggest upset in AAFL history. In case you’re wondering, it was Georgia, Mississippi State, and Kentucky who didn’t have any players drafted. This actually makes sense because Kentucky and MSU aren’t football factories that produce excess amounts of decent and well-known players, and three of the four SEC-affiliated teams are rivals for Georgia (Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee). What self-respecting Dawg would ever wear Crimson, Orange and Blue, or Convict Doing Community Service Orange? Seriously.

What about percentages of BCS school players?

  • ACC: 34 players
  • Big 12: 25 players
  • Big East: 13 players
  • Big Ten: 24 players
  • Notre Dame: 4 players
  • Pac 10: 10 players
  • SEC: 49 players

Considering how geographically limited the league is, it’s not surprising that most players are from the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten. I’m almost shocked that as many as ten Pac 10 players signed up for this, but then again I don’t recognize any of the names. Ryan Leaf must have been holding out for whenever the AAFL expands to Pullman.
Of the sponsoring schools, the numbers of college players playing for the ol’ Alma Mater-affiliated teams are as follows:

  • Alabama: 8 players
  • Arkansas: 6 players
  • Florida: 18 players
  • Michigan: 7 players
  • Tennessee: 5 players
  • Texas: 1 player

Woo! Gators go for the top, even if it’s a financially shaky, destined for the dustbin of history football league! But what’s with Texas? Only 1 player? Even Texas Tech had two. On the one hand, it’s somewhat embarrassing to see Florida with the most players, but few fan bases cherish the names of past players the way Florida fans do. Not that too many Gators were looking to relive the glory days of draft pick #165, Cory Bailey.

Finally, the Mr. Irrelevant (which takes on a whole new meaning in this league) of the draft was one Pedro Holiday from Middle Tennessee State. He’s a 6’1″ wide receiver taken by Arkansas, just one spot behind former Yale QB Jeff Mroz. Hey Jeff, if you’re the second-to-last pick in a minor league football league based on college fans’ nostalgia, it might be time to start using that Yale degree you paid so much for. Just saying.

Giga Bowser is upset that his season tickets to Arkansas’ home games will have to wait for 2009, if ever. Pedro Holiday is like, his favorite player ever, man.

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2 Responses to AAFL Postmortem

  1. Ted says:

    Don’t be throwing dirt on the AAFL’s grave yet. And if it doesn’t make it it won’t be because of the concept, or because of playing with players who don’t play in the NFL, but only because of finances.

  2. year2 says:

    The reason all of the major sports leagues are going today isn’t because of the original funding they got, but because the product on the field/court/etc. is excellent and something that people will watch on TV and pay dearly to see in person. The support from fans attending games and watching them on TV provided the sustaining income to keep them going. I don’t think the AAFL teams, even if the league can get off the ground and playing, can get that.

    Take the Florida team for instance. Gainesville itself won’t be enough to sustain the team. Not even the 2006-07 basketball team, with everyone back from a national title, could sell out every pre-SEC home game. So then you’re relying on people driving in from all over, in an era of ever-increasing gas prices, to show up. Plus, the slowing economy is affecting the league’s target fans just as much as it is the student loan-backed booster that was the league’s main source of funding. It seems very dicey to me.

    And even then, if the Florida team is a smashing success, it won’t matter if the rest of the league isn’t doing as well. The Orlando Rage of the XFL sold out most if not all of its home games, but the league as a whole wasn’t viable so it didn’t matter.

    The concept is fantastic on paper, but a de facto recession is the worst time to try to start a new sports league, not that it’s the AAFL’s fault since no one knew we’d be here when it was drawn up. Attending subpar football games just to see old favorites play is a luxury item, and not many people are playing for luxury items anymore – just reference the Sharper Image going bust last month. And even in good times, I don’t know if the payoff of mediocre football is worth the time and money for people to congregate to the campuses enough to keep the league afloat. The football quality will be at best equal to the Pro Bowl, and no one watches that. The future of the AAFL really isn’t that bright.

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