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The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a professional American football league founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. It began play on February 9, 2019, six days after the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl LIII championship game. The AAF consists of eight centrally owned and operated teams. Filmmaker Charlie Ebersol was inspired to create the AAF in late 2016 after making the documentary This Was the XFL for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series; upon researching and examining the history of the XFL, he came to the conclusion that the concept was viable but that the finished product was both poorly executed and, from an on-field standpoint, bad football. He began developing the AAF in December 2017, about the same time that word had come out about XFL co-founder Vince McMahon possibly reviving the old XFL brand.
|Current season, competition or edition:|
|Founded||March 20, 2018 (2018-03-20)|
|No. of teams||8|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California|
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a professional American football league founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian. It began play on February 9, 2019, six days after the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl LIII championship game. The AAF consists of eight centrally owned and operated teams.
Filmmaker Charlie Ebersol was inspired to create the AAF in late 2016 after making the documentary This Was the XFL for ESPN Films' 30 for 30 series; upon researching and examining the history of the XFL, he came to the conclusion that the concept was viable but that the finished product was both poorly executed and, from an on-field standpoint, bad football. He began developing the AAF in December 2017, about the same time that word had come out about XFL co-founder Vince McMahon possibly reviving the old XFL brand.
The AAF was announced on March 20, 2018. Ebersol sought to focus on creating a solid football product in the hopes that it would attract fans. He hired a team of experienced football players, coaches and executives to prepare the league for launch. The AAF is overseen by former NFL general manager Bill Polian, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and executive J.K. McKay. Advisers also include former Steelers receiver Hines Ward, former New York Giants and Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck, retired referee and current Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira, and Ebersol's father, retired NBC Sports executive (and co-founder of the original XFL) Dick Ebersol.
Ebersol attended the first XFL game in Las Vegas in 2001, and remembered how disappointed his father was by the poor quality of play. To ensure professional-level football at launch, the AAF set out to hire coaches with professional football coaching and championship experience. On April 7, 2018, the first team, Orlando, was announced with its coach Steve Spurrier. By June 2018, the league had announced its eight inaugural teams and their cities.
On July 30, 2018, the Alliance announced the league had signed 100 players. In August 2018, the league held the Alliance Scouting Combine at three locations and four dates: August 4, 2018 in Los Angeles, California; August 18 in Houston, Texas and August 25–26 in Atlanta, Georgia. By August 24, 2018, 205 players were signed. These dates provided an opportunity for players cut at the NFL roster deadline, and each player signed a three-year contract worth $250,000 (with a $70,000 salary in 2019), with performance-based and fan-interaction incentives allowing for players to earn more.
In July 2018, Starter, through G-III Sports, which manufactured NFL jerseys in the 1980s and 1990s, was named the official on-field apparel and game-day uniform supplier for the AAF, marking a return for the brand to professional football. On September 20, the league announced four eastern inaugural franchises' names and logos. The western four teams were revealed five days later.
On October 16, 2018, the Alliance announced its schedule (indicating the day and location, but not the time, of each game) which has two games each on Saturday and on Sunday most weekends. Quarterback skills training camps were held at the Alamodome in San Antonio on November 12 through 14. On November 27, the league held a four-round "Protect or Pick" quarterback draft in the Esports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas and broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
The AAF began its inaugural, 10-week season on February 9, 2019. The first points in AAF regular season history were scored by kicker Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Legends, who made a 38-yard field goal against the Orlando Apollos. The first touchdown in league history came in the same game with Orlando quarterback Garrett Gilbert connecting with Jalin Marshall for a 16 yard score. The first shutout in league history was recorded by the Birmingham Iron when they defeated the Memphis Express, 26–0, in Week 1.
On February 18, 2019, the league announced that Tom Dundon, whose other holdings include the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League (NHL), agreed to invest $250 million into the league. He was also named the new chairman of the AAF, and Dundon reportedly received a majority stake in the league in exchange for his investment. The investment was initially reported to be due to the league being in danger of not making payroll. It was later reported that the payroll issue was due to a glitch in the league's changing of payroll companies, and that Dundon's investment had already been planned. Dundon noted, however, that the league "had the commitments to last a long time, but maybe not the money in the bank." Ebersol had admitted prior to the start of the season that, on numerous occasions, the AAF had come dangerously close to folding before its first game due to various unstated complications. When asked whether some of the AAF's initial investors had dropped out, Ebersol declined to answer.
At the same time, the league revealed that it had been unable to secure a league-wide worker's compensation insurance policy prior to the start of the season, forcing the Orlando Apollos to move its practice operations to Kingsland, Georgia, and commute to Orlando for games, as Florida does not consider professional athletes to be eligible for worker's compensation.
If the AAF survives to reach its second season, it will find itself in direct competition with a revived XFL, which is announced to begin play in 2020.
||First season||Head coach|
|Atlanta Legends||Atlanta, Georgia||Georgia State Stadium||24,333||2019||Kevin Coyle|
|Birmingham Iron||Birmingham, Alabama||Legion Field||71,594
|Memphis Express||Memphis, Tennessee||Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium||58,325||Mike Singletary|
|Orlando Apollos||Orlando, Florida‡||Spectrum Stadium||44,206||Steve Spurrier|
|Arizona Hotshots||Tempe, Arizona||Sun Devil Stadium||57,078||2019||Rick Neuheisel|
|Salt Lake Stallions||Salt Lake City, Utah||Rice–Eccles Stadium||45,807||Dennis Erickson|
|San Antonio Commanders||San Antonio, Texas||Alamodome||64,000
|San Diego Fleet||San Diego, California||SDCCU Stadium||70,561
Ebersol deliberately avoided making radical changes to the rules of the game so as to make it recognizable to the U.S. public. He stated that he used the average length of a feature film, slightly over two hours, as the basis for a typical fan's attention span.
The Alliance operates as a single entity, with all teams owned and operated by the league, under the name Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC. Some of the investors in the AAF include Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, The Chernin Group (which owns Barstool Sports), Jared Allen, Slow Ventures, Adrian Fenty, Charles King's M Ventures, and Keith Rabois.
MGM Resorts International made an investment in the AAF tech platform, and entered a three-year sponsorship agreement to become the league's official sports betting sponsor and exclusive gaming partner. The deal marks the first time any sports organization has sold exclusive in-game betting rights to a sportsbook.
The league is also planning player bonuses and scholarships, with player bonuses to be based on performance and fan interaction, and players would earn a year's scholarship in post-secondary education for each season of play. Players are expected to get three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000 plus health insurance with an escape clause to go to the NFL. The three-year contract is believed to be purposely targeting the XFL to prevent second-tier professional players from signing with the XFL if they play in the AAF in 2019. The league also has an incentive system that will pay members of a team's offensive and defensive units for statistical achievements and will also pay players to perform community service; the exact details of this incentive system were not yet finalized at the start of the 2019 season. Players are assigned to each team by way of a centralized process that is largely a trade secret. For the fans, in addition to a fantasy league built into mobile broadcasts, low ticket prices (each team will have a $35/game sideline seat option) and inexpensive food are planned.
The AAF coaching salaries vary by title, with $500,000 for head coaches, $200–250,000 for coordinators, and $75–150,000 for position coaches. Each AAF team employs between 11 and 13 total coaches, putting the total coaching staff expenditures at around $2 million per staff and $16 million for the entire league.
As part of its formation, the AAF announced broadcast deals with CBS Sports; opening day (consisting of two regionally-televised games) aired on CBS, as will the championship game. The telecasts make extensive use of on-field microphones (with head coaches and quarterbacks also miked), and Skycams (with two deployed for each game, with one along the sideline, as opposed to having more than one high camera). Half of the games broadcast each week are produced off-site from Sneaky Big Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona: graphics (which were co-produced by CBS), Skycam operations, and commentary are performed remotely from the Scottsdale site, as well as studio coverage for all games (which is produced from a virtual set at the facility). None of the AAF's broadcast partners are paying the league any money in rights fees, as the networks were not willing to lose money on their deals; Ebersol did not disclose whether or not they were buying the airtime or receiving the airtime for free as part of a partnership agreement.
CBS Sports Network will air at least one game per week and one of the playoff games. CBS Sports additionally serves as a production partner. Due to contractual agreements, the AAF themselves can not livestream games broadcast on CBS Sports Network. CBS broadcast an ad for the league during its coverage of Super Bowl LIII. In addition to local stations, TNT will broadcast two games per season (one regular season and a playoff game) while NFL Network airs two weekly games. The league's mobile app will offer live streaming of all games except those broadcast on CBS Sports Network, as well as provide integrated fantasy games, while Turner's B/R Live will stream one game a week. San Antonio's CW affiliate KMYS will air two Commanders games. Select games are also carried on satellite and online radio service SiriusXM.
CBSSN's game of the week will be called by Ben Holden, Adam Archuleta, and John Schriffen. NFL Network's broadcast team for week one consists of Dan Hellie on play-by-play and Marvin Lewis on color commentary. TNT's broadcast team consists of Brian Anderson on play-by-play, Lewis on color commentary, and Maurice Jones-Drew as sideline reporter. The league will not use set announcer pairings, rotating numerous hosts (several of them from the NFL on CBS and the SEC on CBS) on both play-by-play and color commentary, depending on availability.
The AAF received mixed to positive reviews opening night. Profootballtalk.com, in a mostly positive review, praised the league's television product and choice of markets that would embrace the league, singling out the live look-ins at the replay booth during coach's challenges as an innovation that could transfer to the NFL's television broadcasts. The on-field level of play was somewhat less well-received, being compared to NFL preseason levels, with numerous offensive miscues. SB Nation had a similar assessment, criticizing the game play as "much worse than... most of major college football," while at the same time noting that the league's innovations were largely successful in making games more interesting. In an admittedly incomplete review, Peter King stated that although he would not yet draw any "major conclusions" about the league, he liked some of the rule changes but feared the overtime process would be a gimmick.
Overnight Nielsen Ratings stated that the league-opening regionally televised games on CBS were the highest rated telecast of the night in the key demographic, drawing more viewers than an NBA game on ABC in the same time slot. In overall viewers, both the AAF and NBA lost to a rerun of America's Got Talent on NBC. The NFL Network telecast that week secured 640,000 viewers. With these comparatively strong initial viewership statistics, the Week 2 ratings were highly anticipated in the interest of developing trended data. In Week 2, the afternoon and evening games on Saturday, February 16th, reportedly attracted 1,018,000 and 425,000 viewers, respectively, in addition to the Sunday evening game on February 17th drawing 424,000 viewers . The disparity between the afternoon and evening games is consistent due to increased competition during primetime hours and the higher market penetration of CBS and TNT compared to NFL Network and CBS Sports Network.
Per terms of the deal, MGM also will invest in the AAF tech platform, ...
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