Today’s smorgasbord of announcements by the A11 Professional Football League has proven one thing – when the A11FL says it will “Go Big,” it means it.
Let’s take each announcement one at a time:
- Having ESPN as the league’s national television partner is a game changer. In the tradition of the United States Football League (1983-85), which had a fledgling ESPN as its cable TV partner, the A11FL-ESPN partnership seems like a natural fit. ESPN has been on the ground floor of football leagues like the USFL, and the Arena Football League in 1987, so “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” has been through the steps of televising a new league at its launch.
The A11FL-ESPN deal is for two years, and ESPN has the option to extend the deal.
- The A11FL also announced six of its eight charters franchise locations and team names on Thursday. They are the (San Francisco, California) Bay Area Sea Lions, the Chicago (Illinois) Staggs, the Dallas (Texas) Wranglers, the Los Angeles (California) Express, the (East Rutherford) New Jersey Generals and the Tampa (Florida) Bay Bandits. These strong team brands, the effort to create them led by A11FL co-founder Steve Humphries, are a wonderful mix of old-school names recognizable to many football fans, and new brands which will be in short order. The first six franchises all are in the top 14 United States television markets.
- The league’s two showcase games – which will feature the league’s eight Head Coaches for the spring of 2015 and players who will be in the 2015 A11FL draft pool – will be May 17 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida; and June 5 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. These games not only will allow big crowds in those two cities to see the A11FL brand of football months ahead of the other markets, but it also will allow a national television audience to see it ahead of the league’s first full season, as well as give the coaches and players a chance to “dip their toes into the water” for two games and several practices ahead of the spring of 2015.
- Some of the other news nuggets to come out of today’s press conference included the news that the league has made an offer to former University of Florida, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow, and it is indicating it will have a 14-week regular season in 2015, and a three-week playoff format with five of the eight teams qualifying. The No. 4 and 5 seeds will play in a wild-card game, and the four remaining teams would play in the semifinal games.
While today’s batch of announcements was the official jumping-off point for the A11FL, don’t think that the league’s higher-ups are taking a victory lap and resting on this. There is a lot of work to get done more than three months ahead of the first showcase game and more than 13 months ahead of the league’s first full season.
But if the opening act is any indication, football fans are in for one heck of a show!
(Writer’s note: Tomorrow on a11flmagazine.com, there will be a story about the upcoming Bay Area Sea Lions-Los Angeles Express rivalry. Also, the full press conference will be made available on the A11FL’s YouTube channel tonight PST.)