A new pro football league is ready to give it the old college try starting next spring.
The All-American Pro Football League had open tryouts in Orlando, Fla., on Monday with more scheduled for today, hoping to create a niche for itself with football in the spring.
Other spring/summer football leagues have come and gone, ranging from the WFL, USFL, XFL and just last week NFL Europa went out of business. But the new AAFL is attempting to gain a fan base by aiming its appeal toward rabid college football fans.
The league already has many former college officials on board, including former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey, former Notre Dame athletics director and ex-ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan and retired University of Tennessee athletics director Doug Dickey. University of Georgia alumnus and businessman Marcus Katz is helping to bankroll the venture, which has spent three years on the drawing board.
This league is not the same as the proposed UFL that involves Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and plans to play on weeknights in the fall.
Corrigan says the involvement of so many with ties to the college game is what attracted him to get involved in the AAFL. Because of those ties, players have to meet certain requirements in order to be able to play in the league. They have to have exhausted all their college eligibility and they have to have completed their college degree.
“What got me involved, there were a couple of things,” Corrigan said. “One was the graduation thing. I don’t want to be a part of anything that competes with college football. And two, having kids that have completed their eligibility. Everybody on board has that as their basic concept. The idea is for young people to play some and make a little money, too. They’re not going to get rich doing this. They may have to have a job in the fall.”
Corrigan says he wants AAFL players to be involved in their communities as well.
“We’re not interested in a bunch of spoiled people here. We’re interested in people who want to play and want to contribute to their communities,” Corrigan said.
The AAFL, according to Corrigan, hopes to have at least six and perhaps more franchises in place by Sept. 1 with a goal of opening its inaugural season in early April. The season would run through early July.
“What we need to have by Sept. 1 is a minimum of six locations and hopefully what we have is a team in each state, so we don’t have to worry about the state. The nickname can be whatever the fans decide it’s going to be,” Corrigan said.
As part of the college tie-in, players will be distributed regionally to their franchise in order to maximize familiarity. In other words, the team in Florida would have plenty of players from Florida, Florida State and Miami.
Tennessee is one of the target states for the new league, according to Corrigan. He indicated that a Tennessee franchise, which would have plenty of University of Tennessee alumni on it, would be based either at Neyland Stadium or perhaps at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
“We’re looking at Knoxville, and the University of Tennessee has been very positive about this,” Corrigan explained. “And we’re also looking at Memphis, because they have that stadium that sits there, and Tennessee is a great football state.”
Those looking at the league should not confuse it with the NFL, but Corrigan says that many of the players who eventually make the AAFL will be quality players who played at the highest level of college football and now want a chance to continue to compete in the sport. There should be no shortage of coaches either, he says.
“We have plenty of coaches that want to do it, but I will tell you that there are some great people that want to coach in this league. Coaching is not a problem,” Corrigan said. “And players — these are not going to be guys that play on Sunday in the fall, but they play every Saturday in the fall. There will be no problems with the coaches or players in this league.”
Besides, Corrigan figures the influx of players from the recently folded European league can’t hurt as the AAFL tries to gain a foothold of support.
“We didn’t know that NFL Europe was going to fold,” Corrigan said. “It was amazing that it happened this week, and this is the week we’re having our first serious push. Could that be fate?”