Written by Patrick Pryor @patpryorgraphics
On February 9th, the Alliance of American Football was the hot talk of the sports world. A week after the Super Bowl, Matt Bercovici brought the AAF to national attention when he was leveled by Shaan Washington as the San Antonio Commanders won one of the first games, 15-6, against the San Diego Fleet. The Fleet would go into week 9 with a 3-4 record, which was good enough for a 1st-place tie in the West Division with the Arizona Hotshots. Week 1’s other Saturday game wouldn’t have Twitter shattering hits, but it had an example of the best AAF team, the Orlando Apollos, destroy the Atlanta Legends 40-6. They would lose only one game, putting them at 7-1 with only two games left in the season; only them and the Birmingham Iron have clinched a playoff spot.
However, the league has dipped in viewership since Week One, and those playoffs might not happen. As of April 2nd, the AAF has halted all football operations. The downfall began just over a week after the first games. Tom Dundon, owner of the Miami Hurricanes, invested a reported 250 million dollars. It came out soon after that he didn’t commit a lump sum to the league and was giving money over time, possibly amounting to $250 million. It was still enough to become majority investor, and he was made chairman by the Board of Directors. He also included the fact that he was willing to pull funding if he saw things going south. As the young league progressed, it viewership came down, and so did its popularity. It went to the NFL for help, offering itself as a developmental league to help third stringers and practice squad players get playing time. But once the NFL brought up issues with guaranteeing injured AAF players a salary, Dundon publicly said he’d pull his funding if the NFL didn’t assist. On April 2nd, first reported by NBC’s Pro Football Talk, the league suspended all football operations. Many theories came out about why the league was halting things, but in general, everyone knew that Dundon wasn’t optimistic about the league’s future; the league will fold without his investment. As reported by Darren Rovell of the Action Network, Dundon will lose $70 million because of this and is going up against the league creators, Bill Polian, and Charlie Ebersol. Polian and Ebersol have nothing to do; however, with no ability to push the NFL, they can’t make Dundon stay. Polian put out a statement criticizing Dundon, but he is still one of the reasons the league needed Dundon, to begin with, but Dundon is making the decisions.
Pro Football Talk also reported that the league would need another $20 million to stay alive, even with Dundon’s money. While the AAF has some wealthy names behind it, putting $20 million up for a league that is having trouble just eight weeks in isn’t an easy idea. Dundon leaving would doom the league, and the springtime football that we’ve enjoyed for a while may come to an end. Many things are left up to question at this point, all we know is right now there’s no plan for football this weekend. Many players have come out saying that they aren’t getting severance pay, their health benefits are getting taken away, and they don’t have any more information than we do. They may be taking the worst of it. They get a chance, play their hearts out, and the league shuts down. A small hope is the XFL, as many of these guys have proven themselves as good ball players, but for the next year, they’re stuck without a job. Dundon or the NFL could change their minds, but without either option happening as of right now, there is a limited chance that we see another AAF game.