A11 Football League Chief Executive Officer/Commissioner Scott McKibben knows fans of the new spring outdoor professional football league want more details about various aspects of the progress of the circuit.
And those fans are about to get some of those details.
“We are getting very close to where we will do our national announcement,” said McKibben, adding that the announcement will include who the league’s television partner will be, as well as announcing six of the league’s eight initial markets as being “solid.” “There are still two (markets) that could change and could be in flux, and that’s because of interest from different ownership groups and interest in TV. Within the next 30 days, certainly before Christmas, we will make an announcement.”
McKibben said the conclusion of the television deal, of which the A11FL is in serious late-stage negotiations with three networks, is what has delayed the league’s national announcement. He added that the league’s equipment/merchandise/apparel sponsor will tie in with the television announcement.
“When we do our national announcement, we want to do it with something of substance,” said McKibben. “Television is probably the single-most important and critical element of a league, whether it is a professional league or a college conference. We’ve all seen what the value economically is. But equally as important is, with the various types of distribution, having your product in the hands of a high-quality network broadcaster. There isn’t any question that the single biggest component that we have to get done is television. That’s the gas in the tank.”
“The development of the league and the launch of the league continues to move forward. We’ve been very pleased. On the fundraising side, we’ve spent a lot of time on the road, and we’re getting a lot of interest on the team and league level.”
McKibben said the A11FL will go ahead with two “showcase games,” both nationally-televised, in May 2014. The coaching staffs for the two showcase games will be the eight head coaches for the full inaugural A11FL season, as well as a few more additional assistant coaches for each team.
“I’m not going to mention any of them by name,” McKibben said of potential A11FL head coaches. “We’re looking for coaches who want to coach at the professional level who are great at developing players, who understand this is a league that isn’t like Arena Football or any of the others – this is National Football League-kind of football. It’s not about names as it is about the quality of the coach.”
The inaugural A11FL season will begin the last weekend of March 2015, and end with the first A11FL championship game on or around Fourth of July weekend.
The A11FL has the advantage, or disadvantage, depending on your point of view, of coming into being in the “digital age” of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. – things previous spring outdoor pro football leagues didn’t have access to.
McKibben sees this as a positive, saying, “I think we have an advantage that the USFL, the XFL and the UFL didn’t have. While we haven’t made an official announcement, it has piqued the interest of our fan base. This continues to go on, and it feeds on itself. It feeds on the interest of our fans. While at times, it has consumed some of our time in having to respond, I think it’s better to have visibility than silence. I’ll take the chatter over silence any day.”
The A11FL will have four player drafts/allocations over 60 days through January of 2015 to stock the bulk of its eight teams’ rosters for training camp:
- A territorial allocation of players who were eligible for the National Football League Draft from 2009-14.
- A common draft of non-territorial players who were eligible for the NFL Draft from 2009-14.
- A territorial allocation of players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.
- A common draft of non-territorial players eligible for the NFL Draft in 2015.
“The regional component is quite attractive for a league starting up because of the familiarity of the fans in the region, of the media familiarity,” McKibben said, “and a lot of these players will want to stay reasonably close to home, if possible. We only protect a few schools for a few rounds, so we think we have just the right mix. I think we’ve struck the right balance.”
The behind-the-scenes developments with the A11FL in recent months have served to heighten McKibben’s excitement about what’s to come in 2014, 2015 and beyond.
“As you get closer and you become more of what I would call ‘real’ to people, the excitement picks up, no question about it,” he said. “The real threshold point for us is when we have completed a national television agreement. We haven’t done an official announcement, because it’s our view that one of the most important components is, what’s the media going to be, what’s the television going to be.
“It (the excitement) has continued to grow by the day. The closer you get to the reality of this thing really coming together, the more excited you get. When you get down to the deep points, it begins to feel more like it’s real. We’re set and ready to go.”