One of the under-the-radar stories of this offseason has been the steady formation of the Alliance of American Football. Far from being an XFL knockoff or an NFL Europe d-league, the AAF’s management and coaching talent seems to bring some credibility that professional spring football hasn’t really seen since the old USFL days.
...[The] Alliance of American Football has a much different feel to it. It may have been easy to brush of the league’s initial announcement, but then they started naming the head coaches of their teams and it was clear that the guys overseeing the league weren’t messing around.
It started with the naming of Steve Spurrier as the head coach of the Orlando franchise, and in the weeks and months that followed, a number of well-known names in the coaching profession were also named including former NFL and college head coaches in Mike Martz (San Diego), Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake), Rick Neuheisel (Phoenix), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Brad Childress (Atlanta), Tim Lewis (Birmingham). The last remaining head coach is Mike Riley (San Antonio) – according to a tweet last night from Alex Marvez.
The league is slated to begin play next February. As we can tell from our traffic report, not everyone is necessarily into the winter sports. And while baseball and softball are just beginning their seasons in February, they largely remain niche sports for our market in particular — with college baseball viewership not even being a blip on the radar.
Football is king. And nowhere is it more royal than in the south. The league has smartly targeted the sun belt and those markets where football gets good ratings but where there is not necessarily a pro market. San Diego, for instance, is a shrewd choice. Having just lost its long-time franchise to L.A., people that grew up on the Chargers can slake their thirst in a city that has America’s most perfect weather. So too is the inclusion of Orlando smart. Central Florida was very marketable for both the Arena and USFL squads. As with most of our once-isolated South, the area is only growing too, and is particularly filling up with refugees from America’s coasts and Rust Belt.
And, of course, there’s the natural prebaked rivalry between Memphis-Birmingham. The Bluff City has always been a good market for football: Being a hub of Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss and ‘State fans — with a smattering of Vawls — it’s a great town for football, even if the home team has only recently become a consistent national player. Birmingham requires no introduction. The Magic City has hosted every iteration of semiprofessional sport you can imagine. And, as Nashville did with hockey, the growing population of hipper, younger and more affluent residents can be had as smart, loyal fans willing to drop some money provided the marketing is right, the competition legitimate, and the experience cool. Make it a happening, and they will come.
Anyone up for the Battle of the Bones, but on grass? First 48 Bowl? The annual “We All Hate That Drive on 78” game? I’m in...even if I have to go to Legion Field or you have to park in Orange Mound.
Healthy skepticism is warranted, to be sure, as is a lot more substantive marketing and promotion. And, of course, we’ll need to see what kind of talent the league attracts, its differentiating rulebook “hook”, and how the league positions itself — will it be like small division league? Unaffiliated, except for its city, with a decided eye on catering to local markets? Or will it be a feeder league, full of talented college players that simply didn’t seem to be good enough for the NFL at the time? Players like Peyton Barber or Dominick Jackson come to mind. Hey, it worked for Rod Smart.
So, your question for today is: