When it comes to putting together a high-quality spring professional football league, those guiding the A11 Football League won’t cut any corners.
And that fact alone should be enough to pay a high tribute to those past spring pro football pioneers who no longer are with us.
I thought about this at the end of last week after the passing of Arena Football League icon Tim Marcum, that league’s all-time winningest head coach. Marcum was no stranger to the outdoor spring pro football genre, having spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the United States Football League’s San Antonio Gunslingers (1984-85) and one campaign as an assistant in the World League of American Football with the New York/New Jersey Knights (1991).
After mourning Marcum’s passing and thinking of how many times I saw him on television in various leagues over the years, I began to think about the spring pro football pioneers the A11FL will be paying tribute to by its high quality of play, beginning with two showcase games in May of 2014 and its first full season beginning in March of 2015.
The list begins where it should – with former Tampa Bay Bandits owner John F. Bassett. A fierce proponent of spring football while owning one of the cornerstone USFL franchises, Bassett was the leader of the charge against moving the USFL’s 1986 schedule to the fall, which ended up being the league’s ultimate undoing. Bassett, who sold his interest as managing general partner in 1985 as a result of certainly his anger at the USFL’s scheduling decisions and perhaps also because of his failing health, died in May of 1986 after battling cancer.
And there’s someone like Bob Ackles, who was a key figure in the development of the only season of the XFL in 2001. Ackles, who is better known as a Canadian Football League Hall of Famer for his work as both general manager (1975-86) and president (2002-08) of his beloved British Columbia Lions, was the vice president/general manager of the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws. Ackles died in July of 2008 from a heart attack.
Finally, Mike Lynn was the president of the WLAF when it launched in 1991. Lynn, who also was a longtime executive vice president/general manager of the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings, headed a spring pro football league which operated on two continents (North America and Europe) and in five countries (United States, Canada, Germany, Spain and England) at the same time. Lynn died in July of 2012.
The A11FL will be provide football fans with a great on-field product. It also will be a fitting tribute to men like Marcum, Bassett, Ackles and Lynn, who were key figures in building spring pro football leagues of the past.