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 Will Birmingham join the Spring Football League?

 
  

December 1999

  
         
    The Spring Football League announces that Birmingham is under consideration for a franchise. Other cities mentioned were Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Miami, Canton (OH) and Jackson (MS). The SFL's inaugural 12 game season will be played in March through June of 2000, with the league championship to be played during the Memorial Day weekend.

The SFL is trying to position itself as a major recruiting ground for the National Football League (NFL). As of yet, the SFL does not have any formal agreements with the NFL. Not only does the SFL want to send their players to the NFL, they also want to provide opportunities for front office personnel, coaches, scouts, game officials and other employees to advance to the NFL. Since the NFL is in only 30 of the 75 top media markets, the SFL feels it has great potential in many markets across the country to support their league. And since the SFL will be a spring league, it will not compete directly with the NFL or colleges for a fan base. They will be competing with the Arena Football League and the proposed arenafootball2 league. However, some feel that since the SFL and the arena leagues are such different types of football, this shouldn't pose a problem.

The SFL's players will be given equal salaries and will be paid by the league office. Additional incentives and bonuses may be given by team owners.

Among the potential investors in the league are former NFL stars Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett and Bo Jackson. Jackson is rumored to be the owner of the Birmingham team. "I can't make any big announcements of whatever, but I'm very interested in this new league," he said.

  
         
    It is announced that Bo Jackson will be in Birmingham soon to speak to the Mayor about bringing his franchise to Legion Field. Jackson, who is from the Birmingham area, is a former Auburn University and NFL star.

Kenny Rogers, the SFL's Vice President of League Development, said Jackson thought about placing his franchise in Chicago, but decided his Birmingham roots were too strong. "Bo really wanted to come back to Birmingham. This is his hometown," Rogers said.

  
         
    Jackson meets with Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid to discuss the use of Legion Field. Jackson said, "We just had a meeting. Nothing's finalized. Nothing is etched in stone. We've got to do a lot of talking on the phone, a lot of coordinating. There's nothing even remotely out there that'll say that there's been a deal struck."

Mayor Kincaid said he needs time to analyze issues such as rent, parking, concessions, police and stadium maintenance. He also said Jackson asked the city to propose a specific deal instead of the other way around. "I'm not ready to commit the city to that course of action at this point. But I'm certainly willing to explore it. If businesses can benefit from it and at the same time provide another recreational outlet for the citizens of Birmingham, them I'm for it. But again, I give that endorsement advisedly because I am concerned about image. Quality of play would be very important in this - and if there are contractual things with which we could live. I think for what they are proposing, it could happen," the Mayor said.

Responding to the history of other short-lived football teams in Birmingham Jackson said, "You tell me why it won't succeed. The simple reason is that all the other leagues, when they've tried to come here, have tried to compete against the NFL. We are competing with the NFL, meaning the NFL is backing us. We will sell NFL products throughout concessions stands. We'll be affiliated to where NFL owners and scouts can come here to pick up players if the want to, which will obviously bring revenue to the city. This is a developmental league targeted to get players to the NFL. It's like a minor-league system for the major leagues."

Dr. Larry Lemak, of the Alabama Sports Foundation, also attended the meeting and will give the Mayor a feasibility study by the end of the week.

  
         
  

January 2000

  
         
    It is reported that the Birmingham team will not begin play until the 2001 season. Only four teams will compete this year, the Houston Marshalls, the Los Angeles Dragons, the San Antonio Matadors and the Miami Tropics. Also, the 2000 season has been shortened to only four regular season games. The SFL's inaugural season begins on April 29th and concludes with the June 3rd championship game.

According to the SFL's Communications Director, Laura Paquelet, Birmingham is expected to field a team in the future. She could not be more specific which year that would be. Paquelet said the SFL wanted to get established in larger markets where the owners, facilities and television contracts were already in place.

When Jackson met with Mayor Kincaid in December, one of the biggest hurdles in fielding a team was getting Legion Field ready in time.

  
         
  

May 2000

  
         
    The Spring Football League issues the following statement:

"After successfully completing half of its Festival 2000, the Spring Football League's Board of Governors and Executive Committee announced today that the League will conclude its market test and immediately focus on expanding to an eight-team league for a full schedule in 2001. The League's goal for the 2000 season has been to test markets, fans, stadiums, media, sponsors, and entertainment, as well as obtain answers regarding the football product. Answers were also needed about the overall concepts advanced by the League's Board of Governors. League and team representatives held a scheduled meeting in Houston Sunday morning, discussed every aspect of the product, and decided to conclude activities now so the League can prepare in earnest for 2001. The League's agenda includes selection of expansion markets, continued evaluation of the four markets tested this year, and conversations with ownership candidates. In addition, the League remains committed to its unique diversity program and will work to secure financing for minority ownership prospects. The SFL will refund advance ticket sales. In addition, the SFL will fulfill the League's financial commitment to stadiums, entertainers and all other League-contracted parties. Players will be paid through the second game, plus each active player and taxi squad player as of Saturday's game will receive a partial week's salary as a bonus and an inaugural season ring."

According to Bill Futterer, the SFL's Executive Director, the SFL plans to expand by at least four teams for the 2001 season. "Eight teams playing at least an eight-game schedule will make us viable for television. We've already talked to many of the leading television sports providers, and we have very aggressive and innovative plans for the Internet. There are many great cities in America without professional football, and we've already been in talks with stadiums and prospective owners for several locations. Once we complete our first season, we'll immediately turn our attention to expansion for 2001," Futterer said.

Since each team had only played two of their scheduled four games before the league cancelled their "market test", most believe the SFL has played it's last game.

  
         
  

Epilogue

  
         
      Each team had only played two of their scheduled four games before the league cancelled their "market test" and as most expected, the Spring Football League never returned.   
         
 
 

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Last Update: November 11, 2006