Eight weeks into its inaugural season, the Alliance of American Football has suspended its operations.
“I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football,” Bill Polian, who co-founded the league with Charlie Ebersol, said in a statement Tuesday.
“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.”
Representatives for the AAF did not immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment. You can read Polian’s full statement below:
AAF co-founder Bill Polian issues strong statement after new owner Tom Dundon shuts league down. pic.twitter.com/YwFWaLFwwl
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019
Dundon, who became the majority chairman of the AAF last month, said last week that the league was in jeopardy of folding after not getting buy-in from the NFL Players Association.
The league’s long-term plan was to fashion itself as a development league — much like the now-defunct NFL Europe — but Dundon told The USA Today that the NFL Players Association wasn’t cooperating.
“If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can’t be a development league,” Dundon said. “We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league.” Dundon, who owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, assumed control of the AAF after he invested $250 million.
NFL players, even those on practice squads, are free to join the AAF at any time, but the AAF would need the NFLPA’s cooperation to acquire a practice-squad player who currently is signed to a futures contract (essentially a contract that guarantees them an invite to training camp but doesn’t take effect unless they are on the roster at the start of the season).
The NFL has rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that limit the amount of contact-football that players on NFL contracts are allowed to do during the offseason.
The AAF has an expansive TV presence for a league in its first year, airing games on CBS, CBS Sports Network, TNT and the NFL Network.
The AAF featured eight teams with 52-player rosters playing a 10-week regular season schedule beginning Feb. 9 on CBS, followed by two playoff rounds and was supposed to culminate with the championship game at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on April 27.
The AAF going belly-up could be good news for the XFL, the Vince McMahon-owned league that is attempting a comeback next season. Like the AAF, the original XFL lasted just one season in 2001. The rebooted XFL is scheduled to begin play on Feb. 8 and 9, 2020, the weekend following Super Bowl LIV in South Florida.
McMahon announced the XFL’s relaunch back in January, promising a “fan-centric, innovative experience” that includes “shorter, fast-paced games and a family-friendly environment.”
The first edition of the XFL was a disaster for McMahon and NBC, which aired the league’s only season in 2001. The original XFL was beset by poor play and even worse TV ratings — in 2001, NBC did not yet have “Sunday Night Football” which aired on ESPN at the time.