With Super Bowl LIII in the books and National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, you may be thinking we’ve reached the official end of football season. But I’ve got good news! THERE’S MORE FOOTBALL TO GET US THROUGH THIS WINTER.
We have been blessed with the Alliance of American Football this year and, conveniently enough, their 10-week schedule will get us through to West Virginia’s annual Gold-Blue Spring Game.
What is the magical league you’re speaking of?
The AAF is a brand new Spring league founded by Charlie Ebersol, the son of NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol, and former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian. The league was announced in March 2018, with the intention of becoming a secondary league for college players who don’t draw NFL interest immediately out of college, and those who have made it to the NFL but didn’t survive roster cuts. Think of it as an unofficial development league. Your favorite AAF player may one day find his way to an NFL roster.
The league will consist of eight teams for this inaugural season, but most expect the league will expand in the near future if it proves to be a successful venture. Teams are comprised of a 52-man roster, with each player signed to initial three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $250,000, according to reports.
The league will employee a couple different rules than those of the National Football League. Telecasts will feature no television timeouts and 60% fewer commercials, with the intention of getting the real-time game length down to about 30 minutes shorter than an NFL game. There will also be no kickoffs. Similar to the NFL and NCAA touchback rule, the ball will be placed on a team’s own 25-yard line to begin each half and after each score. In lieu of an onside kick, a team can elect to keep possession of the ball by attempting a scrimmage play from their own 35-yard line in an 4th-and-10 situation. If the team gains the first down, they keep control of the ball. If they come up short, they suddenly have their opponent knocking on the door of the red zone.
The four best teams at the end of the regular 10-game season will compete in the AAF playoffs, with the league’s championship game planned for the weekend of April 26-28.
Why should I care?
For starters, it’s football. If you’re not much into college basketball or the NBA, the stretch between the Super Bowl and college football Spring games can be extremely tedious - second only to the stretch between the NBA Finals and college football Fall training camps.
Sports are fun, and you can get in on the ground level of something that has the potential to grow over the next few years. Go to the games, tell your friends, buy the merchandise. The key to making sure this league succeeds is for fans to actually invest in it.
A well-run Spring league, which this appears to be, is great for the sport. It gives those players who haven’t made it to the NFL - or made it and just didn’t stick - a second chance opportunity to live out their dreams.
Ok, so how do I pick my team?
Option 1: Team Location
West Virginia University has alumni all over the country. There are WVU Alumni chapters in four of the eight cities with an AAF squad (Orlando, Atlanta, San Diego and Arizona), and an alumni chapter within a few hours of the remaining four teams. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these teams nearby, jump on the bandwagon.
If you don’t live anywhere near one of the eight AAF teams, fear not - there are a couple more ways to choose your allegiance.
Option 2: NFL Affiliates
This is the interesting part of the Alliance of American Football. Each AAF team is loosely affiliated with four NFL teams, in the sense that players that get cut from the NFL can be picked up by the AAF team affiliated with their previous team. For example, the Birmingham Iron are affiliated with the Pittsburgh Steelers - a favorite of many West Virginia fans. If a player gets cut by the Steelers and isn’t picked up by another NFL team, he can sign with the AAF and will be placed on the Iron.
Each team is also affiliated with the major universities in their region - including all of the SEC, ACC and Pac12 schools. If a player from Florida State didn’t turn enough heads to make it to the NFL, his career isn’t over. He can sign with the AAF and will be placed on the Orlando squad. West Virginia is not included in the team affiliations, which means Mountaineer football alumni are free to go to any of the eight AAF teams.
And that brings us to...
Option 3: A Mountaineer Plays There
As of today, former Mountaineer standouts Terence Garvin and Marquis Lucas are both a member of the Orlando Apollos 52-man roster. Before final cuts were made, KJ Dillon, Al-Rasheed Benton, Marvin Gross and Elijah Battle were all on AAF rosters. While there is just two West Virginia alumni on a roster right now, I expect more to pop up as the league grows. Evan Rodriguez, who played at West Virginia for one season before transferring to Temple, is listed as a tight end on the San Antonio Commanders.
Also, for anyone interested, former Fairmont State Falcon wide receiver Fabian Guerra is a member of the Memphis Express. You may remember him from his SportsCenter Top 10 one-handed catch from a couple years ago.
Let’s Meet The Teams
The Head Coach: Kevin Coyle (Former NFL assistant coach)
Home Stadium: Georgia State Stadium (Formerly Turner Stadium)
NFL Affiliates: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins
CFL Affiliate: Toronto Argonauts
Power 5 College Affiliates: Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech
Key Players: Aaron Murray, Matt Simms, Denard Robinson and Bug Howard
Additional Notes: Michael Vick will serve as the offensive coordinator of the Legends
The Head Coach: Tim Lewis (Former NFL assistant coach)
Home Stadium: Legion Field
NFL Affiliates: New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers
CFL Affiliate: Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa Redblacks
Power 5 College Affiliates: Alabama, Auburn, Maryland, Mississippi State, NC State, Missouri, and South Carolina
Key Players: Blake Sims, Trent Richardson, Jonathan Massaquoi and Chris Davis
The Head Coach: Mike Singletary (Former San Franciso 49ers head coach)
Home Stadium: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
NFL Affiliates: Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans
CFL Affiliate: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Power 5 College Affiliates: Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt
Key Players: Zach Mettenberger, Christian Hackenberg, Zac Stacy, Rajion Neal, Pig Howard, and Brad Wing
The Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (THE HEAD BALL COACH)
Home Stadium: Spectrum Stadium
NFL Affiliates: Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CFL Affiliate: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Power 5 College Affiliates: Florida, Florida State, Miami (Also includes Florida Atlantic, Florida International, South Florida and Central Florida)
Key Players: Terence Garvin, Marquis Lucas, and Garrett Gilbert
The Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel (Former UCLA Bruins head coach)
Home Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Arizona)
NFL Affiliates: Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers
CFL Affiliate: Edmonton Eskimos
Power 5 College Affiliates: Arizona, Arizona State, Illinois, Oregon State, Texas Tech, UCLA, and Washington State
Key Players: Trevor Knight, Justin Stockton, Scooby Wright and Nick Folk
Salt Lake Stallions
The Head Coach: Dennis Erickson (Former Arizona State head coach)
Home Stadium: Rice-Eccles Stadium
NFL Affiliates: Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks
CFL Affiliate: Calgary Stampeders
Power 5 College Affiliates: Arkansas, California, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Utah (Also includes Boise State, BYU and Colorado State)
Key Players: Austin Allen and Matt Asiata
San Antonio Commanders
The Head Coach: Mike Riley (Former Oregon State head coach)
Home Stadium: The Alamodome
NFL Affiliates: Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles
CFL Affiliate: Saskatchewan Roughriders
Power 5 College Affiliates: Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, and Texas A&M (Also includes Houston and SMU)
Key Players: Marquise Williams, Greg Ward Jr., Evan Rodriguez, Joel Lanning, and Zack Sanchez
San Diego Fleet
The Head Coach: Mike Martz (Former St. Louis Rams head coach)
Home Stadium: SDCCU Stadium
NFL Affiliates: Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders
CFL Affiliate: BC Lions
Power 5 College Affiliates: Arkansas, Stanford, USC and Washington
Key Players: Mike Bercovici, Paul James, and Francis Owusu
Additional Note: Former West Virginia tight end Anthony Becht will coach the Fleet’s tight ends
I Have My Team, So How Do I Watch?
Glad you asked. The AAF has secured a broadcast deal with multiple networks to air every game of the inaugural season. Take a look at the schedule below to find out when and where you can watch your new team.
We will be following the AAF careers of Marquis Lucas and Terence Garvin over the course of this season, and will post updates when they’re warranted. If there’s enough interest, we may also do an Open Thread each weekend for our readers to hang out and watch the games together.