The Alliance of American Football (AAF) has set a record. After less than one season and only eight weeks of games, the league has already been dismantled. What was meant to give football fans something to do in the NFL off-season has fallen flatter than 40-year-old pigskin.
The owner of the league, Tom Dundon, has suspended all operations, according to a statement by the AAF’s co-founder, Bill Polian. In confirming the suspension with ESPN, he explained, “I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football. When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.
“The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity.”
From even before the first kickoff, there had been rumblings of issues behind the scenes, including rumors of contractors and employees not being paid. Dundon, who is also the owner of the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL, promised to make an investment of $250 million in the AAF to help straighten out the issues, but it later surfaced that he may have had ulterior motives.
Dundon had apparently wanted to use the AAF as a type of springboard to the NFL for players and had been trying to negotiate some deals. This didn’t sit well with the league’s founders, Polian and Charlie Ebersol, finally leading to the season cancellation.
There were other issues, as well. The Orlando Apollos out of Florida, who were leading the league 7-1, were forced to hold their practices three hours away in Georgia and the championship game had to be relocated to Texas after it was revealed that no contract existed to allow the AAF title game at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
The Apollos head coach, Steve Spurrier, told reporters, “We’re all disappointed, but on the other side, we got to be the champs, right? We’re 7-1 and the next teams are 5-3. Some of us didn’t get into the Alliance to advance our careers, but the players … I’m more disappointed for all the players that believe, ‘This is my chance to show people this, that and the other that I can play this game.’
“And a lot of them will get opportunities. They’ve shown enough.”
Sportsbooks across the U.S. had already launched wagers on AAF games through the title game. Many of those have already indicated that they will be issuing refunds to gamblers.