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Team and League History.


August 1, 2006
    All American Football League logo
Birmingham could be in the running for a franchise in the new All American Football League. League representatives have been in contact with city officials about a team playing in Legion Field when the league begins play in April 2007.

Legion Field's director, Melvin Miller said, "We're waiting on them to get with us and try to finalize something. I don't know much about the league. They just approached us and we certainly are available in the spring and hoping it will work."

The league is a creation of former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey and 12 others from the world of sports, education, and business. Dempsey's group hopes to have 8 solid franchises in place before the season starts.

Former Tennessee and Florida coach Doug Dickey, a founding member of the AAFL, said the new league would like to have teams in some of the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, and possibly college bowl cities. "We have felt all along that Birmingham is a strong site. It's an independent bowl site that has some potential. We have had discussions with them and are in the process of working on a stadium-issues agreement," Dickey said.

At this point, only Purdue, Tennessee, and North Carolina State have agreed to rent their stadiums to the new league.

The AAFL will have a number of unique operating differences than most professional football leagues. Along with using college rules, the AAFL will require players to have graduated from a 4-year college and have no eligibility remaining. "It was an intriguing idea from the beginning, and I wouldn't have had an interest in this if it were just another football league. But it had such a close tie back to higher education... and it gives an incentive to finish school," Dempsey said.

Franchises are estimated to cost investors between $2-3 million and the league will seek local ownerships. However, the league will offer fans and alumni the opportunity to purchase ownership shares in their team. Players will earn around $100,000, which is above what can be made in any other professional football league except the National Football League. The league will pay players and coaches to control spending by rogue owners.

If an agreement is reached, the mayor and the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board would have to give their approval before a team can be established here. "We're hoping everybody will embrace it. People need things to do in Birmingham, and this is one way we can have some things going on this spring," Miller said.

Not everyone is sold on the league, however. Alabama Sports Foundation director Gene Hallman is one of them, "I think maybe this market is somewhat cynical for these kinds of opportunities. I would be surprised if it worked. But we certainly should be listening to what they say. The people they have on board are impressive."


September 7, 2006
The AAFL hopes to obtain a rental agreement with the city for the use of Legion Field within the next 3 months. "I think sometime soon we will have completed a document with them that would give us an opportunity to start speaking with investors in Birmingham. Birmingham is one of those sites we've projected as a place we believe we need to be at," said Doug Dickey.

Melvin Miller said the city's basic stadium rental is $5,000 per game or 10% of the attendance gate, whichever is greater. "We need to see what they're talking about. We have always been flexible. I haven't heard anything lately. That's great news they're that interested," Miller said.

October 18, 2006
The Birmingham Park and Recreation Board approves a 5 year stadium usage agreement with the AAFL. Under the agreement, anywhere from 5 to 7 games are to be played at Legion Field. The AALF's game-day lease with Legion Field is for $13,500 per game or 10% of gross ticket sales, whichever is greater.

The AAFL also has contracts to lease daily office space at $1,565 per month, seasonal office space at $4,285 per month and a usage fee for the practice field at $7,500 which will be paid in installments.

The league hopes to secure 8 stadiums for their inaugural season. "We're moving ahead and hopefully they'll start their season in 2007," said Miller.

November 30, 2006
While no official announcement has been made, sources inside the All American Football League say that the league will push back its debut a year to 2008.

According to AAFL operations manager Kristopher Kem, universities that currently have stadium-use agreements with the league are Purdue, North Carolina State, Florida, and Tennessee.

The league also has an agreement to use Legion Field.

October 22, 2007
    All American Football League logos
  Logos for Team Alabama, Team Arkansas, Team
Florida, Team Michigan, Team Tennessee, and
Team Texas.
Apparently, AAFL teams will not have nicknames or mascots. However, they will be closely tied to the local universities they are near. For example, Birmingham's team will be tied to the University of Alabama and they will be known as Team Alabama. Uniform colors are expected to resemble each university's uniforms. There will be 6 charter members of the AAFL; Team Alabama (Birmingham), Team Florida (Gainesville), Team Tennessee (Knoxville), Team Texas (Houston), Team Michigan (Detroit), and Team Arkansas (Little Rock).

Also, former Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill is rumored to be a strong candidate for the positions of head coach and general manager. "We've talked about different roles. I think the league has an awful lot of possibilities because they're going out there and getting kids who can still play. In the right situation, at the right time, I would coach again. The better question is, can I still coach? Yes. Can I motivate kids? Yes. Once you're a football coach, you can probably coach until you can't walk," Sherrill said.

Sherrill likes the idea of Birmingham being part of the new league, "The best thing about Birmingham is you have the ability to be successful there. Not only can you sell tickets there, you can get support from the community and corporate people. There's a reason Birmingham's known as the Football Capital of the South. Look back at the USFL. Birmingham had great support and a great team."

Kenny Stabler, former quarterback for the University of Alabama and the Oakland Raiders, is one of Team Alabama's advisors. Stabler agrees the league could work. "I think the league has a shot. You're combining smart kids with real football talent and a region that has passion for football, " Stabler said.

Joining Stabler on Team Alabama's board is another Alabama great, John Hannah.

Dr. Larry Lemak, a prominent local surgeon, is also on the board. Lemak has a history with professional football. In 1991 and 1992 he was a minority owner of the Birmingham Fire, which was part of the NFL's World League of American Football. He was also the medical director for NFL Europe and the XFL. "Medically, you've already got things in place that you don't have in other cities. That's a huge component. Dr. Lemak is one of the best orthopedic surgeons around," Sherrill said.

Former Auburn University running back Joe Cribbs has been named president of Team Alabama.

November 12, 2007
Former University of Alabama and Auburn University assistant coach Bill Oliver says he will not be Team Alabama's head coach. Oliver spoke to Team Alabama board member Dr. Larry Lemak about the job. "Dr. Lemak and I conferred quite a bit. But, really and truly, after looking at everything, I don't think it's right for me at my age," Oliver said.

Oliver is 68 and last coached in 1998, when he finished the season as Auburn's interim head coach. A couple of years ago he turned down Steve Spurrier's offer to become his defensive coordinator at the University of South Carolina.

With Oliver out of the race, speculation is that Team Alabama president Joe Cribbs now is considering two candidates, Jackie Sherrill and former NFL Europa head coach Mike Jones.

Although he will not be involved in the new league, Oliver hopes it will succeed. "I'm all for this league. It's a great chance for some good football players to keep playing," Oliver said.

November 13, 2007
A press conference has been called for late tomorrow to name Sherrill as head coach.

Marcus Katz, the AAFL's founder and primary investor, has confirmed that Sherrill was their first choice. "He's been offered the job and he said he'd do it. The contract went out. He just has to sign it," Katz said.

Sherrill was in the running with one other candidate, NFL Europa veteran Mike Jones. Some of the others considered were former Auburn and Alabama assistant Wayne Hall and Bill Oliver.

"We've interviewed some extremely quality potential head coaches. I think we'd be fine with any of them. I think the ultimate one that will lead the team will be a true winner and the fans will respect his ability to coach. We're going to set the bar high," Cribbs said.

November 14, 2007
The press conference to name Sherrill as head coach has been postponed, due to negotiations breaking down late Tuesday night with Sherrill. It is unclear what has stalled the contract discussions.

"We've still got two good candidates. We will end up with a good choice," Cribbs said. Mike Jones, along with Sherrill, are the remaining candidates for the job.

November 15, 2007
Team Alabama president Joe Cribbs confirmed today that Jackie Sherrill has withdrawn his name from consideration as head coach. Cribbs said that Sherrill was unable to make the commitment because of non-football issues but he has asked to remain with the club on an advisory basis.

Cribbs met with Mike Jones over the weekend and is a finalist for the job, but Cribbs said he wants to talk to other candidates now. "We've still got 2 of the original candidates (Mike Jones and Wayne Hall), but I want to talk to others and make sure we have the right fit. Whoever we hire, I would like someone who's flexible enough to keep Jackie on board in an advisory capacity," Cribbs said.

November 28, 2007
    Photograph
  Team Alabama president Joe Cribbs with
newly named head coach Mike Jones.
At a press conference at Legion Field, Team Alabama president Joe Cribbs announces Mike Jones as head coach.

"I am so excited to be a part of what I feel is a part of history. The long tradition of quality, winning football teams in the state of Alabama is what drew me to this opportunity, and I look forward to adding to that tradition with Team Alabama," Jones said.

Cribbs is excited about Jones' abilities and successful work history. "I feel he's most familiar with the players that are going to be available to us. He gives us a slight advantage over some of the other teams because he's been a coach in NFL Europe. Since that league folded (over the summer), all of those players now are looking for a job. As someone familiar with the majority of those players he gives us an opportunity to field a very good team," Cribbs said.

Jones agrees, “In NFL Europe, we got new rosters every year and only three weeks to put those teams together. So putting a team together won’t be anything new for us. In fact, having this long to put together a roster and four weeks in the preseason is actually a luxury I didn’t have in Europe.”

Jones had a 7 year career as an NFL wide receiver from 1983-1989, playing with the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. After the NFL, Jones began his coaching career at Liberty University. In 1998-2000, he was an assistant coach with the World League's Rhein Fire. While he was there the Fire won the World Bowl in 1998 and 2000. The XFL came along in 2001 and Jones left to become an assistant with the Orlando Rage. When the XFL folded after one year, Jones returned to the Rhein Fire of the World League as an assistant coach. The Fire made two consecutive trips to the World Bowl but lost them both. In 2004, Jones became a head coach for the first time with the World League's Frankfurt Galaxy. Out of the 4 years he was the head coach, the Galaxy reached the World Bowl 3 times and won the league title in 2006.

Keenan Davis, vice president and chief operating officer of the AAFL, was in Birmingham for the announcement and expressed his excitement for the city and new league. He is well aware of Birmingham's professional football past. “But what I also know is that all those leagues failed Birmingham. Birmingham did not fail those leagues. The All American Football League has had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of those other leagues. And I guarantee the mistakes made by the other leagues will not be made by this one," Davis said.

The National Football League recently agreed to provide NFL officials or officials-in-training for all AAFL games. Davis hopes more than referees will make the jump from the AAFL to the NFL. “There is no official connection with the NFL. We are independent of that league. But heck, yeah, we hope this is only the beginning of a relationship with the NFL. By agreeing to put their officials in our league, they opened the door,” Davis said.

Davis hopes the AAFL develops players and coaches for the NFL. “On the field, we’re taking the place of NFL Europa. But we’re not a developmental league. We’re professional college football," Davis said.

Between stadium rental, jobs created, and bringing in teams for home games, Davis estimates the franchise will have an $8 million a year impact on Birmingham. “I know the teams that are playing on campus (at the University of Florida, University of Tennessee, and Rice University), we’re basically paying for (the colleges’) non-revenue sports. Those 3 were the only schools that accepted our offer to be part of the inaugural season. Others told us they wanted to wait until our second year,” Davis said. The league approached the University of Alabama about using its stadium, but according to Davis, the university was not interested in doing so the first year.

At the press conference, one assistant was named, former Auburn University linebacker Kurt Crain will serve as Jones’ defensive coordinator.

Jackie Sherrill, who received Team Alabama's first head coach offer, will work with the team as a mentor. "Jackie Sherrill is going to be very much a part of this team. He's accepted a position on our advisory board and he will have a significant touch on this team," Cribbs said.

Cribbs also said the league is not ready to unveil uniforms, but he confirmed the Team Alabama colors will be red, blue, and silver "and will look similar to the Denver Broncos."

March 6, 2008
Rumors of the All American Football League's bleak financial status are mounting. The league's board of directors will hold a conference call today with AAFL chief executive officer Marcus Katz to discuss whether to go forward with the season and the league.

Katz, the co-founder of the Educational Loan Administration Group, is the primary source of funding for the league and has already committed between $30 million and $35 million. The conference call is in response to his deadline of providing financial support beyond March 31st. Sources say that on April 1st the AAFL must come up with between $7 million and $10 million to secure stadium leases.

However, former Florida coach and Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey, a member of the AAFL board of directors, said last night that reports that the league will fold today were premature. "I would not confirm that at all. We're going forward until there is some reason for us not to. The plans are to go forward. We're going to meet today (via conference call) and I think there are some other options here that would give us some time. Just let us work through this and we'll have something to say at that point. There is nothing definitive right now," Dickey said.

Katz said, "I think the conclusion is we just have to give it a little more time. Without a TV deal, we won't get the investors immediately. If we don't get the TV deal, we don't have a choice but to go back and raise a lot more money. The simple truth is there aren't that many people around who can afford to take that kind of risk. We have a lot of people interested and every single one of them said, `Do you have a television deal?'"

The last few weeks have been tense for the fledgling league. With training camps fast approaching, the AAFL still does not have a television contract of any kind and the prospects of getting one quickly appear dim.

Also, player salaries were going to be $100,000 per player for the season, but was recently reduced to $50,000 a player. This has caused some bigger name players to bow out of the league.

Ticket sales have been so disappointing that the league or the individual franchises will reveal the number of season tickets sold. Sources use the word "abysmal" in describing the ticket sales and they claim that Team Florida leads the league in sales with only $100,000, which translates to roughly 2,500 season tickets sold. Dickey admitted last week that the league's tickets sales were not where they had hoped they would be but that the AAFL was expecting the numbers to rise over time. "We're moving in the right direction. That's the encouraging thing. People are going to be skeptical until we get in the season and start playing games," Dickey said.

Katz said the AAFL board of directors had cautioned him that not many advance tickets would be sold due to public skepticism from unsuccessful professional football leagues in the past. "I didn't really want to hear that. I wanted everybody to trust us," Katz said.

Later in the day, the league released the following press release:

"In an attempt to secure kickoff of its inaugural season as well as its long-term future and success, the All American Football League has begun discussions to explore multiple financing options.

Since inception, the League's finances have been indirectly tied to the $300 billion federally guaranteed student loan asset backed securities market. In August, the subprime mortgage crisis began spreading into other sectors such as municipal bonds and federally guaranteed student loans. The situation, which was considered to be temporary at the time, has continued to worsen.

Despite the fact that the Federal Reserve has repeatedly lowered interest rates during this financial crisis, their efforts have not yet restored liquidity in many asset backed markets, including municipal bonds and student loans.

The League held its inaugural draft in January, and the team rosters and staffs are all in place. All teams are scheduled to open training camp Wednesday if liquidity can be immediately restored.

Every effort is being made to insure that the '08 season will be played as planned, but this depends upon a locating new majority owner with the needed liquidity, which in turn depends upon the League being able to finalize a TV deal. Otherwise, the inaugural season will be postponed to '09."
 

March 11, 2008
The AAFL announces it is finalizing deals with a major national television network and a satellite radio company.

The league hopes the new deals will be welcome news to interested financial partners that may be waiting to invest in the league.

Details, such as the network names and terms, were not disclosed.

March 13, 2008
The All American Football League's Board of Directors vote to postpone their inaugural season to 2009. A single owner that was hampered by the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the U.S. that had trickled down into other sectors, such as federally guaranteed student loans, and securing a television agreement late in the game doomed the league.

Below is the league's press release:

"The All American Football League (AAFL) announced today the postponement of its inaugural season until 2009. The League will continue to build upon the foundation that has been established, and will continue to discuss opportunities with potential investors.

AAFL sponsors have committed to remain on board for the 2009 season. Currently, the League has corporate partnerships with New Balance, Baden Sports and Rogers Athletic. Also still in place for the 2009 season are a national radio partnership with Touchdown Radio & SportsDay Productions, and an Internet broadcast partnership with PlayOn! Sports, a division of Turner Broadcasting.

"We are so very fortunate to have built partnerships with companies who are partners in the truest sense of the word," said Keenan Davis, AAFL VP of League Operations and COO. "We sincerely appreciate their support as we progress toward our new goal of a 2009 inaugural season."

All fans who have purchased tickets to 2008 AAFL games will receive a full refund. Credit cards will be credited and any checks received will be returned.

Additional details regarding the AAFL's postponement are forthcoming."


Many believe the league, which originally deferred playing from 2007 to 2008, will not survive the latest postponement.

Dickey was trying to place a positive note to the decision to postpone. "I'm personally disappointed that we couldn't pull it together. But I think we're a victim of the financial markets, which caused a significant change in the circumstances of cash flow in our league. We had a lot of things put together very well. We had some good football players signed up and I believed, if we got through 4 or 5 games of our schedule, we'd win people over. I still think we have a chance to put something together in 2009," Dickey said.

March 26, 2008
Team Alabama President Joe Cribbs says he believes the AAFL's central office in Atlanta overly micromanaged the individual franchises which limited their ability to market the league and to stand on their own. "The thing has been micromanaged to death. Not even board members know anything that's going on. I feel I was misled and lied to (about the league's future), and I'm hurt. I live in Birmingham and I have a love for this city and this state. I know what was going on and it needs to come out," Cribbs said.

The majority of employees at each franchise have been put on administrative leave. "They've basically shut down most every team with one person left to handle the transition at each franchise," Cribbs said.

Cribbs said the AAFL's advertisements in Birmingham played up the University of Alabama and even used 'Yea, Alabama', as background music, which impeded Team Alabama's effort to appeal to a broader audience.

In addition, Cribbs believes the AAFL's choice of uniforms was a mistake. After designing a uniform that combined red jerseys with blue trim and blue pants, Cribbs said the league gave their approval, but then sent him a totally different uniform. The new jersey and helmet looked very similar to the University of Alabama's. "I believe they undermined my position with Team Alabama. Basically, we were left in a no-win situation," Cribbs said.

Cribbs believes that if the league had played the season as scheduled, the local franchise would have been fine. "We'd have been successful as a team. But we were not given a chance, and I'm frustrated," Cribbs said.

Epilogue
The All American Football League came as close as a league can to actually playing. Some big names in the world of football were attached to this but unfortunately, enough big investors weren't.

Team Alabama logo



Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: January 15, 2018