Saturday, March 15, 2014

A11FL ahead of the spring football game 12 months prior to kickoff

 

The A11 Professional Football League is 12 months away from kicking off its first full season, bringing high-quality professional spring outdoor football back to the legions of fans who find themselves wanting more from the final play of the Super Bowl to the first whistle of National Football League training camps.

And with the A11FL’s opening kickoff just one short year away, it already has seven of its eight charter cities and brands announced, a full and accomplished leadership team in place, a two-year television contract with ESPN and continues to work behind the scenes to finalize details of its two showcase games later this year in Tampa, Florida, and Dallas, Texas.

While there is no shortage of work to be done in all phases of preparation for the A11FL’s inaugural season – and a lot of details fans are itching to find out – history tells us that the A11FL is far ahead of the other three major spring outdoor football leagues in many phases of its rollout.

-         The United States Football League kicked off with 12 teams and six games on March 6-7, 1983. The USFL, however, didn’t announce its 12 cities (of which there were two franchise shifts prior to kickoff) until May 11, 1982, and it didn’t name Chet Simmons as its first Commissioner until June 13, 1982.

-         The NFL-backed World League of American Football’s first weekend of play was March 23-25, 1991. This easily was the most tenuous launch of the previous “Big Three,” given that the final league structure of 10 teams in three divisions and five countries over two continents wasn’t announced until November 14, 1990 – a little more than four months prior to kickoff. Exactly one year before kickoff, only three markets – Orlando, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama and Montreal, Quebec, Canada – had been made public.

Mike Lynn was named the WLAF’s President/CEO on October 10, 1990 – a little more than five months prior to kickoff.

-         The XFL’s inaugural weekend was February 3-4, 2001. Exactly one year prior to kickoff, on February 3, 2000, professional wrestling mogul Vince McMahon unveiled his plans to launch an eight-team professional football league. The league’s President, Basil V. DeVito Jr., was involved from the outset, but the XFL’s first franchise wasn’t publicly announced until June 13, 2000 (Chicago Enforcers), and the final franchise wasn’t revealed until September 15, 2000 (San Francisco Demons).

Waiting on new information from a new sports league can be frustrating – both for those inside and outside of the league. A11FL fans can take heart in two things – that the league is working tirelessly behind the scenes to give football fans the league they want in the spring/summer months, and that this league is well ahead of previous spring leagues in many phases of the game.

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stuchbury’s love of start-up football leagues leads to role with A11FL


If there has been a professional football league not named the National Football League in the last two-plus decades, there’s a great chance Fran Stuchbury has covered it.

Stuchbury has covered the Arena Football League, arenafootball2, the XFL, the Canadian Football League and the United Football League in the past, and, now, he is joining the A11 Professional Football League’s advanced media team.

“What drew me to the A11FL was the quality people involved with the league,” Stuchbury said. “Back in 2001, when I did a weekly column for The Sports Network, I did an interview with XFL Vice President of Football Operations Mike Keller, who now is the President and Chief Operating Officer of the A11FL. He has a proven background with many football leagues.

“I could tell when I spoke to Co-Founder Steve Humphries on the phone. I loved his passion for this league. They are committed to bringing an exciting brand of football at the time of year where fans are going through ‘football withdrawl.’”

“We are excited to have a passionate sports writer like Fran join our media team,” said Humphries of Stuchbury. “His wealth of start-up football knowledge and ideas give fans an insider’s perspective of their new football league, and that makes Fran a perfect fit for his new role.”

Stuchbury, who is an Assistant Content Coordinator at The Sports Network and has worked there for almost 15 years, has had a long love affair with spring professional football, going all the way back to the original World League of American Football. In high school, he snuck over to Giants Stadium to go to New York/New Jersey Knights Fan Day.

From there, Stuchbury began a national radio show about the Arena Football League, “ArenaZone,” from his college radio station. His guests included AFL Founder Jim Foster (who referred to Stuchbury as a “pioneer” for doing an ArenaBall radio show), former AFL Commissioner David Baker and future National Football League Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner.

That led to his position with The Sports Network – and a long, winding road of non-NFL championship games he’s personally covered (six ArenaBowls, two ArenaCups, two UFL Championship Games and a Grey Cup) that’s taken him from Montreal, Quebec, Canada to Bossier City, Louisiana.

In addition to writing for the A11FL, Stuchbury also is looking forward to doing a radio show about the league. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to interact with league fans, as well as establishing relationships with them.

“Broadcasting has been a passion of mine,” said Stuchbury. “I really enjoyed doing shows on Arena Football and the UFL. I also like to write and give fans a different point of view and talk about things nobody else is mentioning.”

Stuchbury’s A11FL stories will be featured at the upcoming blog site, www.a11flinsider.com.

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Panthers’ helmets reflect both brand’s past, franchise’s bright future


The Michigan Panthers will begin life in the A11 Professional Football League next spring with a sense of both nostalgia and forward thinking, thanks to its three (so far) helmet concepts.

“When we started this design project, we knew the Panthers helmet was a special case,” said Steve Humphries, A11FL Co-Founder/Vice President of Advanced Media. “The goal is always to improve a design, but the special challenge with this one is creating a modern design for a new football league while at the same time satisfying everyone’s opinion that the Michigan Panthers’ helmets was one of the best of all time.”

Michigan’s team colors are royal plum, light blue, champagne silver and white. The team’s primary helmet is champagne silver with a royal plum and light blue logo and royal plum face mask.

“It’s the classic, pure Panthers,” said James M. Kuty, Founder of Kuty Kreative out of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “Gives me chills looking at it, knowing I was part in reviving such a revered brand.”


The Panthers’ Blue Steel helmet is light blue with a royal plum and champagne silver logo and royal plum face mask.

“It still has the classic look but with a modern twist,” Kuty said. “Taking the secondary color light blue is bold, daring and fun. That what this league is about!”


Michigan’s Frostbite helmet is white with a royal plum and light blue logo and white face mask.

“Well, the Frostbite helmet has described our winter here in the Midwest - snowy and chilly,” said Kuty. “Another great modern take of combining the geographic area and the Panthers brand.”

“The simplicity of Kuty’s design enables slight adjustments in the color arrangements to optimize the Panther logo for each color helmet,” Humphries said. “That’s the genius of the modernization that helps take the new Panthers brand to the next level.”

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Panthers brand updated, keeps nostalgia of 1980s version


A re-brand of a previous professional sports franchise can be a difficult task.

For James M. Kuty, Founder of Kuty Kreative out of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the task of re-branding the Michigan Panthers for the A11 Professional Football League, was more exciting than difficult.

“The Panthers helmet is one of the most iconic helmet designs in the 20th century,” said Kuty. “I remember as a kid I was absolutely fascinated with it, it was ground breaking. So I wanted to update the look of the logo, but still keep the tradition (the sleek lines and ferocity of the Panther, but clean things up). It was great this fall talking with my friends, tailgating in Ann Arbor for football games, picking their brains about the Panthers. Surprising to me, 30 years after the team is gone, they still love the brand.

“Pretty much what you see is what I presented. We twisted and tweaked the helmet logo a bit, but Steve (A11FL Co-Founder Steve Humphries) and the whole A11FL staff just fell in love with it. Steve and I had conversations about creating a secondary mark for merchandising, because the helmet logo does not work too well with merchandising. So we took the helmet logo and created an oval mark that will work on hats, tees, etc. Dane (Storrusten) and I worked together on creating the correct typography for the brand. It was a great group effort, getting feedback and positive support from Steve, Brandon (Williams) and Dane.”

Kuty said it was very important to keep the brand close to its original 1983-84 United States Football League look and close to the color scheme (royal plum, light blue, champagne silver and white), while, of course, giving it a modern update.

“James did a great job conceptualizing the Michigan Panthers modernization in terms of where the logo would go if the team was still in business and evolved over a 30-year period,” said Steve Humphries, A11FL Co-Founder/Vice President of Advanced Media. “It’s a contemporary design that represents a new era with sleek and more vibrant colors, while maintaining its iconic essence.”

As for the question of whether fans will reconnect with the team thanks to the way it was rebranded, Kuty said, “No question. I believe the fans are going to love it! I got my best friend Jeff involved as I was designing (he is an aficionado on football uniforms and football field deigns), and his feedback was very important. Living outside Detroit, he could help give me the pulse of how people still wear retro Panthers merchandise and how they carry the brand with such high esteem.”

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Michigan Panthers will make spring football return to Detroit in A11FL


The Michigan Panthers have been announced today as the A11 Professional Football League’s seventh charter franchise, bringing the city of Detroit, Michigan, its first spring professional football team since the original Panthers of the United States Football League played at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1983-84.

Michigan joins the Bay Area (San Francisco) Sea Lions, Chicago Staggs, Dallas Wranglers, Los Angeles Express, New Jersey Generals and Tampa Bay Bandits are A11FL charter franchises. The league’s eighth and final charter franchise for the 2015 season will be announced at a later date.

“Of all the teams in the old USFL, the Michigan Panthers still have the most avid fan following, none more so than our President Michael Keller, who was formerly the Director of Football Operations for the USFL Panthers,” said Steve Humphries, A11FL Co-Founder/Vice President of Advanced Media. “We are really proud to be a part of the economic revival of Detroit and the great state of Michigan, and bring a really special football team brand back to the people.”


The Panthers round out what would potentially be an A11FL Eastern Division, should the league go that route, along with Chicago, New Jersey and Tampa Bay. Michigan’s offense potentially could feature a two-headed quarterback monster of current Canadian Football Leaguer Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) and current Jacksonville Jaguars “offensive weapon” Denard Robinson (Michigan).

The league is looking at both the Silverdome and Ford Field as the Panthers’ home stadium.


The original Panthers won the 1983 USFL championship and qualified for the 1984 USFL playoffs under the direction of Head Coach Jim Stanley, and Keller. 

Had the XFL continued past its only season in 2001, Detroit may have been the site of an expansion team. On March 29 of that year, the league’s expansion committee visited Tiger Stadium as a potential expansion site.

MICHIGAN PANTHERS
City: Detroit, Michigan.
2014 Nielsen United States television market ranking: 11th.
Colors: Royal plum, light blue, champagne silver and white.
Spring professional football league history: Michigan Panthers (United States Football League, 1983-84).

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

McDaniels turns passions of drawing, football into A11FL masterpieces


Gary McDaniels didn’t know a great deal about the A11 Professional Football League prior to a simple Google search many months ago.

“I typed in professional spring football leagues on Google, and up popped this A11 thing,” said McDaniels, who lives in Atwater, California, and is a fourth-grade teacher in nearby Winton. “The thing that captured my attention was the (offensive jersey number) rule change. You have to go to a smaller, quicker player. That opens up a whole new potential for a lot of people. I started reading and read the history of it and where it came from.”

McDaniels’ love of football and drawing cartoons turned into a regular feature on the A11FL Facebook page – “The Sideline.”

“I sent something off to the league, and a few days later, I get a friend request from Steve (A11FL Co-Founder Steve Humphries), and I didn’t know who he was,” McDaniels admitted. “I wrote to him and made the comment that I do this all the time and I do it just for fun. I got a response back and he said he wanted to talk and maybe do some things for us.

“I was hoping people would like it. When we started getting some responses, there were some comments about the wagon I did, the one that looks like the wheels were going to fall off. It seems like everybody is enjoying it.”

When McDaniels had season tickets to San Jose Sharks (National Hockey League) games, he would draw cartoons during those games, and give them to fans so they, in turn, could have them autographed.

McDaniels said the thing that has caught his eye with the A11FL is the few former United States Football League team names which are being resurrected.

“I thought that was a stroke of genius,” he said. “I followed the Oakland Invaders when they were around. That will really help out.”

McDaniels said he has passed some more cartoons along with Humphries, also the league’s Vice President of Advanced Media.

“There’s more coming,” he said. “Stuff pops in my head and I can’t get it out, so I just sit down with a pad and start doodling.”

And as for a possible regular feature in A11FL game programs using McDaniels’ cartoons, he said, “I leave that up to Steve. I told him the bottom line to this is the promotion of the league. If it fits, I have fun doing it.”

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Liquid Agency helped launch A11FL brand with simple, patriotic league logo


In recent weeks, the A11 Professional Football League has unveiled six of its eight charter franchises, and the brands that will be associated with them.

But long before that could take place, the A11FL itself had to be branded. Enter Liquid Agency, a brand experience agency in the bay area of California.

“We heard that the league was in formation, and knew (A11FL Co-Founder) Kurt Bryan through a family friend,” said Scott Gardner, CEO/President of Liquid Agency. “I was asked to attend a couple meetings…to discuss how to launch the A11 brand.”

Gardner and the rest of the Liquid Agency team was starting from scratch, but had plenty of past logos to work off of – both for good ideas and bad ones.

“After doing a lot of research on a lot of football logos and popular major league logos, we realized there were some things American sports franchises tended to do,” he said. “One of the things we did in an audit was we realized that stars were very popular. In some of the early conceptual work, we realized that stripes weren’t used as much as stars.”

Gardner saw an opportunity for stripes to be a differentiator in the league logo – and that is where the three red stripes on the right side of the logo come in.

Those working on the A11FL logo came up with a lot of different conceptual design solutions, according to Gardner. They wondered if they could do the logo without having a football element in it, but since they went with A11FL and not having the league’s name spelled out, the logo ultimately had to have a football element within it.

About the league’s logo’s colors being a patriotic red, white and blue, Gardner said, “We looked at a lot of different colors. We looked at many different ways to color that logo. We did find, again, that it’s hard to get away from red, white and blue. You have to decide which hues you’re going to use.

“To represent an American league, using the national colors is key.”

Gardner said the league logo is versatile enough to allow for color changes within it, and it still will stand out.

“We do like the fact that this logo can be modified for different situations, and you can have fun with it,” he said.

“A11FL” is at the top of the logo, with the bottom of that arched to work with the half-football and the three stripes below. The number “11” is smaller than the three letters, so a line was placed underneath the number. Gardner said the reason for the line is so the number reads like a number, and isn’t mistaken for two Ls.

Gardner concluded by saying he liked how the A11FL logo stood out as simple, strong and progressive at the league’s major press conference earlier this month.

“We design a lot of marks for global corporations. Sometimes to create something that’s simple is the hardest thing to do,” he said. “It could have been very busy. Some of the sports logos we found were very busy. We really wanted to create a solid badge, and we’re really proud of where we ended up with this.”

For more on Liquid Agency’s A11FL league logo evolution process, go to http://www.liquidagency.com/blog/the-a11fl-a-new-brand-of-football/#.Uwtrc_ldWa8.

Dusty Sloan is the A11 Professional Football League’s Senior Editor/Vice President of Editorial Content.