LAKE MARY, Fla. (FOX 35 Orlando) - The Alliance of American Football, which had a promising start as the latest spring league, is suspending operations eight games into its first season. The league had teams in Orlando, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Birmingham and Memphis.
Employees were notified in a letter from the board on Tuesday afternoon that they will be terminated as of Wednesday. The board essentially is majority owner Tom Dundon, who also owns the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes.
The league was co-founded by former NFL executive Bill Polian and television and film producer Charlie Ebersol. Polian told the Associated Press that he is "extremely disappointed."
"We were headed to a tremendous run of success, beginning with Saturday's game leading into (the NCAA Tournament) on CBS. Our league on the field has prospered and grown. The football's gotten better, and that's a tremendous tribute to the coaches and players and GMs and front office staff and all the other people who have done a phenomenal job."
The letter, obtained by FOX 35, said only that the decision to suspend operations was made "after careful consideration."
"Over the last year, we have been able to realize some amazing accomplishments. We launched a football league, a ground breaking sports technology and APP, and established production and broadcast arrangements to air our content on major networks. Together we created some incredible moments for football and our fans. We are very proud of what we accomplished and appreciate the contributions each of you made during that process," the letter read.
The board said they intend to keep a small staff on hand to "seek new investment capital and restructure" the business.
"Should those efforts prove successful, we look forward to working with many of you on season two," the letter continued.
The AAF seemed to have a better chance of surviving than other alternative leagues, such as the USFL and the World League, because of the people and philosophies involved.
Polian and Ebersol envisioned it as a development league for the NFL with several rules tweaks designed to speed up play and make it safer. There were no kickoffs or PATs, and teams had to go for a two-point conversion after touchdowns. While it clearly wasn't NFL-caliber football, it was entertaining and helped fill the post-Super Bowl void.
"This alliance was originally started for players that are not in the NFL," said Orlando Apollos Coach Steve Spurrier in an interview with 96.9 The Game. "It started for guys who don't have a job that maybe complain well enough to get a shot up there."
However, there were signs of trouble in a league put together in less than one year.
Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF shortly after play began. At the time, Ebersol said reports the Alliance was short on cash and needed a bailout from Dundon in order to make payroll were untrue. He said the league had a technical glitch in its payroll system that was fixed.
Some information taken from the Associated Press.