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Alliance of American Football
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Team and League History

      Alliance of American Football logo
June 6, 2018
The Alliance of American Football announces that Birmingham will have a team in the league's inaugural season, which is slated to begin play in 2019.

Birmingham is the seventh of eight teams that will be named. Cities previously announced are Atlanta, Memphis, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and San Diego. All teams will be owned by the league.

The Alliance of American Football was founded by Charlie Ebersol, who directed ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary on the XFL, and brought in former National Football League general manager Bill Polian to help oversee the league. Former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu will oversee the player side while former USC standout and executive J. K. McKay will oversee the team side. Advisors include former NFL players Hines Ward and Justin Tuck. Another advisor will be Charlie's father, Dick Ebersol, who was once president of NBC Sports and former partner of Vince McMahon in the XFL.

Plans call for a 12 week season kicking off on February 9, 2019 and a championship game in late April.

Tim Lewis was also named head coach. This will be his first head coach position.

  Head coach Tim Lewis
Lewis played his college ball at Pittsburgh from 1979 to 1982. After graduating, he was drafted by the NFL's Green Bay Packers. Early in his third season, he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

He began his coaching career the following year, first as a graduate assistant coach at Texas A&M, followed by assistant roles at SMU and his alma mater.

In 1995, Lewis joined the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers as the defensive backs coach, a position he held for five years before being promoted to defensive coordinator. From 2004 to 2006, Lewis served as defensive coordinator of the NFL's New York Giants. He then went on to hold secondary coach positions with the NFL's Carolina Panthers (2007-08), the NFL's Seattle Seahawks (2009), and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons (2010-14).

Lewis is probably the least known of the AAF head coaches announced, which currently include former college coaches Steve Spurrier (Orlando) and Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake City), as well as former NFL coaches Brad Childress (Atlanta) and Mike Singletary (Memphis).

No team name or colors were announced.

CBS has agreed to televise the league's first game, as well as one game each week, and also the championship game.

September 20, 2018
  Alliance of American Football founder Charlie Ebersol (center) with XFL
co-founders Vince McMahon (left) and Dick Ebersol (right)
The AAF announces four of the eight team names and logos. The local team will be called the Birmingham Iron.

Coach Lewis explained the choice saying, "We picked that name because the name pays tribute to the hard-working, blue-collar steelworkers who provided the iron that fueled the Industrial Revolution. This great city of Birmingham is tough, hard-working, passionate, dependable -- all attributes that our team will uphold both on and off the field."

General manager Joe Pendry commented on the team's colors. "They'll be black, dark gray, and a silver, and a light gray. Part of that comes from the floss that you make steel with, so it all goes hand-in-hand with being the Birmingham Iron."

The other teams are Atlanta Legends, Memphis Express, and Orlando Apollos.

September 25, 2018
The AAF announces the remaining four team names and logos; Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders, and San Diego Fleet.

December 13, 2018
City officials and select other dignitaries broke ground on the downtown site of the new open air stadium. Construction is set to begin any day.

February 2019
Alliance of American Football
   Arizona Hotshots     Atlanta Legends
   Salt Lake Stallions    Birmingham Iron
   San Antonio Commanders        Memphis Express     
   San Diego Fleet    Orlando Apollos
  xxx   xxx   xxx   xxx  
Arizona Hotshots   Atlanta Legends   Birmingham Iron   Memphis Express   Orlando Apollos
Salt Lake Stallions   San Antonio Commanders   San Diego Fleet        
February 15, 2019
The league announces that their end of season title game will be known as "The Alliance Championship" and will be played Saturday, April 27, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

February 18, 2019
  Investor Tom Dundon
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the AAF was given a $250 million shot in the arm early last week by billionaire Tom Dundon, owner of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes. Dundon is also expected to be named AAF chairman of the board very soon.

"As a lifelong sports fan and entrepreneur, I’ve always valued the opportunities generated in the ecosystem of sports and entertainment. I’m impressed with The Alliance’s stunning growth in-stadium and across TV, mobile, and social media in just these first few weeks," Dundon said.

Speculation has been made for two very different scenarios; either the league was about to go under and desperately needed additional funding to continue operation - or - the league’s initial success in television ratings enticed a major investor to come aboard.

According to some reports, despite the good TV ratings, the league was running low on cash and had missed its week one payroll, telling agents the delay was due to an “administrative glitch.”

The 47 year-old Dundon bought the Hurricanes in January 2018 for $420 million. He is also the co-founder of Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, home of the PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson tournament; the majority owner of Employer Direct Healthcare, a health care services company; and a primary investor in Topgolf, a sports entertainment company.

Dundon’s role as majority owner of the Hurricanes will not change. However, Hurricanes fans might be wondering how much this purchase will the affect their team. “It won’t at all,” Dundon said. “Although I talk to (general manager) Don Waddell and I’m involved, I don’t have a day-to-day responsibility and therefore I have lots of excess time. If I didn’t do this, I was going to go buy a company and start running a company again. I needed more to do. I feel like the Hurricanes are in good hands, the business is running well. It’s still something I love and have conversations about and want to keep improving, but it’s not a full-time job. It never really was. It definitely isn’t at this point.”

Charlie Ebersol, AAF co-founder and CEO, dismissed the notion that Dundon provided the league with a financial bailout. “Since the beginning, it has been crucial that the foundation of The Alliance be set with world-class partners and Tom Dundon represents just that. Tom, Bill Polian, and I will work with our great team at the Alliance to expand our football operations and technology business. Tom is a self-made American success story who brings a wealth of knowledge in the sports, entertainment and finance worlds and proven leadership to our organization. This has been an extraordinary undertaking for us. It's a giant challenge and opportunity, and as a startup you are constantly looking for some peace of mind. When we got out of the first week of games, we saw there was so much interest from investors, and if we had one person who could take care of us for a very long time, that would be great."

However, an unnamed source believes Dundon was a savior. “Without a new, nine-figure investor, nobody is sure what would have happened. You can always tell people their checks are going to be a little late, but how many are going to show up on the weekend for games when they don’t see anything hit their bank accounts on Friday?”

Ebersol said earlier this month that the Alliance was built to be sustainable for at least a couple seasons, based largely on the technology the league was developing for its app, which would enable people betting on sports to place wagers in real-time. “Look, you can’t raise money to launch a football league. Anyone who tells you they can is lying, unless you’ve got a quixotic billionaire who just wanted to spend all of his money. We raised money as a technology business... the actual business is data, data compression and data delivery manifestation, or artificial intelligence or machine learning.”

Dundon had been monitoring the AAF’s development and his involvement came together in a matter of days last week. Before the season, Dundon passed on an opportunity to invest in the AAF but reconsidered after seeing the level of play and the media ratings after the first week.

Dundon said he will be the only new investor at this time. "We won't bring in anybody for capital. We're not going to take people's money. We have to decide who are the partners we want to be in business with. The Alliance already has great relationships with partners such as MGM. There won't be any money-raising. It will be growing the business. It's so early into this. We're all in the entertainment business, so we're just making sure to continue to do what they have done, which is put out a quality product people want to watch and consume, and hopefully we have the capital in place to take advantage of new opportunities. Things are a lot easier when you have got the capital and connections to execute."

Naturally, Ebersol agrees that money makes life easier. "We think there will be other opportunities, but the fact we took one of the biggest worries of any startup off the table with a partner who has proven he knows how to build businesses, and not build to sell but build to build, is huge. After the success of the first week, we had a number of investors come to us and offer us all kinds of different investments. Tom Dundon showed up and said, ‘Do you want to continue to raise Series B, Series C, and Series D or do you want to raise Series Infinity right now and be taken care of from now on?’ That was an offer I was not going to refuse.”

If the league survives into a second season, it will still face an additional hurdle. The rebooted XFL will begin play in 2020, once again being run by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who expects to spend $500 million in his league’s first three seasons.
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: March 07, 2019