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Will Birmingham play in the Rookie Football League?

??? 2003
In 2002, plans for a new developmental football league were announced. The Rookie Football League will begin play in the Fall of 2005 as a developmental minor league for the National Football League, with a future goal of becoming an affiliated minor league for the NFL.

The RFL will initially be formed as an independent minor league that will sign and develop playing talent, which will be available for purchase by teams in the NFL during the NFL season. The league believes that having game-ready talent available during the NFL season will greatly assist the NFL, as these players will be available immediately to take the roster spot for an injured NFL player or to take on a season-long role from a released player.

Cities expected to have teams are Birmingham, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Jackson, Little Rock, Memphis, Mobile, and Shreveport. There will be a Northern Division consisting of Chattanooga, Huntsville, Little Rock, and Memphis. A Southern Division will feature Birmingham, Jackson, Mobile, and Shreveport.

The RFL states that teams will only be located in cities that do not have an NFL team or a major Division I college football program, and that are at least 100 miles away from an NFL city. This will insure that the RFL does not have to compete with more established football programs, and that it is the "only game in town".

If the NFL and RFL enter into an affiliation agreement, all RFL cities will have to be approved by the NFL. To further promote the opportunity to "cross-market" the NFL and individual NFL teams, the RFL will attempt to locate each RFL team in a city that is in the same geographical region as the parent NFL team. For example, Atlanta's RFL team could be located in Birmingham.

RFL teams will be located in the Southeastern United States, as this area is deemed to have the greatest revenue potential, community interest, and the close proximity of candidate cities will limit travel costs.

The league wants each team to take a more traditional route with their name, logos, colors, uniforms, and mascot. They want each to compliment the community with good taste and a positive image.

The Birmingham team will attempt to play home games at 10,800-seat Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

The RFL will begin play the first week of October and each team will play the teams inside its division twice (once on the road, once at home) for a total of six games, plus one home game and one road game against two different teams from the other division. Games will be played on Friday nights and select Thursday and Saturday nights.

For playoff games, division winners will host the second place team from their division. The playoff game winners will advance to the RFL Championship Bowl, which will take place the week following the playoffs. The RFL Championship Bowl will likely take the name of a major corporate sponsor, and the team with the best regular season record will host the game.

If the NFL enters into an affiliation agreement with the RFL, each of the 32 NFL teams will need to enter into a working agreement with an RFL team. Therefore, the RFL will expand to 32 teams located throughout the country. Each RFL team will play in the same geographical region as their parent team's home city, if practical.

Regarding team ownership, the league has not determined how it will be structured. Teams will either be owned entirely by an individual or group, or utilize franchises that are purchased from the league.

The Rookie Football League never made it past the planning stages.
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: May 15, 2020