Spurrier ‘feels bad for players’ of suspended Alliance of American Football

Orlando Apollos coach Steve Spurrier had the league's best record before the Alliance of American Football suspended operations eight games into its first season. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Steve Spurrier was on the practice field when he got the word that his new league was going belly-up.

“I told them there was no point in practicing then,” he said.

The Alliance of American Football folded Tuesday only eight games into its first season because of financial issues.

Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos team had the league’s best record at 7-1.

“I feel bad for the players, a bunch of guys only getting $70,000 a year and playing their hardest,” he said. “It was a second chance for me and for those players.

“I guess I’ll get back to the ambassadorship sooner than I thought.”

Spurrier took a leave of absence from his job as ambassador at UF to coach in the league and said he’d be back in Gainesville in a couple of days.

AAF co-founder Bill Polian said he’s been told that football operations have been suspended and that virtually everyone involved with the fledgling spring league will be terminated within 24 to 48 hours.

Polian declined to say where he got that information. He said Tuesday that he was waiting for official word from majority owner Tom Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

The former NFL executive, who built a Super Bowl winner with Indianapolis, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the apparent demise of the latest spring league.

“On the one hand it was kind of our wildest fantasies come true,” Polian told The Associated Press. “It all came true and now it’s all come crashing down.”

Asked why the league was shutting down, Polian said he’s heard “only that it’s about the money. That’s all.”

He said the only people who will be kept on will be equipment managers and others who will shut down operations.

Earlier Tuesday, two people with knowledge of the situation told the AP that the league is suspending operations eight games into its first season. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because league officials were still working through details of the suspension. An announcement from the league is expected later Tuesday.

The San Diego Fleet canceled practiced about a half hour before it was scheduled to start.

The AAF seemed to have a better chance of surviving than other alternative leagues, such as the USFL and the World League, because of the people and philosophies involved.

Polian and co-founder Charlie Ebersol, a television and film producer, envisioned it as a development league for the NFL with several rules tweaks designed to speed up play and make it safer. There were no kickoffs or PATs. Teams had to go for a two-point conversion after touchdowns.

“We were headed to a tremendous run of success, beginning with Saturday’s game leading into the Final Four on CBS,” Polian told the AP. “Our league on the field has prospered and grown. The football’s gotten better, and that’s a tremendous tribute to the coaches and players and GMs and front office staff and all the other people who have done a phenomenal job.”

Polian later said in a statement that when Dundon took over, it was his and Ebersol’s belief “that we would finish the season, pay our creditors and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all. The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity.”

Memphis quarterback Johnny Manziel tweeted : “If you’re an AAF player and the league does dissolve. The last check you got will be the last one that you get. No lawsuit or anything else will get you your bread. Save your money and keep your head up. It’s the only choice at this point unless something drastic happens.”

Manziel said in another tweet: “Just the reality of this unfortunate situation.. great concept, good football on the field and fun for fans to watch. Just not enough money to go around which has been the main problem with “other” leagues for a long time.”

Among the league’s coaches were Spurrier, Dennis Erickson, Mike Martz and Mike Riley. The league included teams in Orlando, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Birmingham and Memphis.

While it clearly wasn’t NFL-caliber football, it was entertaining and helped fill the post-Super Bowl void.

However, there were signs of trouble in a league put together in less than one year.

Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF shortly after play began. At the time, Ebersol said reports the Alliance was short on cash and needed a bailout from Dundon in order to make payroll were untrue. He said the league had a technical glitch in its payroll system that was fixed.

The AAF aspired to be a league for players with NFL hopes, but it could not reach agreement with the NFLPA to use players at the end of NFL rosters.

Staff writer Pat Dooley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


  1. Just seems like an epic fail in terms of planning. How could they get the numbers so wrong? They knew the TV money was what it was, and they knew the salary numbers, so what was the surprise? Were they expecting massive revenue from sold out stadiums? Anyway, it is a shame, though actually most of the teams sucked and the coaches were bad, other than SOS.

    Outside of Orlando, all I saw were the same tired, predictable offenses that make so many NFL teams boring to watch, with QBs who seemed inept. innovate. Have some fun.

  2. Jaws, we went to the opening game in Orlando. Was it NFL caliber? No. Was it entertaining live? Yes it was. The format made the game a learning curve but there are some things in there that would have made the league better over time. A few of the networks were a little butt hurt they weren’t involved that likely killed the revenue. It would have made a great developmental league (players that weren’t ready after college) for the NFL and a second chance league for many NFL players that for whatever reason didn’t make it the first time. As far as being as good as the NFL that would have been a direct threat to the NFL and they would have been against it.
    Jaws you mentioned inept QB play and there I agree with you. But that is why most of those guys weren’t in the NFL any more though they were working/trying for a chance.
    As far as money and revenues? They didn’t pay NFL salaries and I am not sure why the NFLPA had issues with that part. Injuries may have been an issue though most of the guys playing here would have probably signed something releasing the NFLPA/NFL from harm while they were there. Could have been a good farm league for the NFL.
    But las as all other leagues have failed. ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.

      • I am a business guy and competition drives improvement and innovation. The NFL has not had any competition other than watching other sports. The other leagues were a threat for talent and space and had they succeeded could have been a threat. This would have augmented the league and probably improved the leagues product. It was really a win-win and it was getting better and it would have kept people watching football in the off months and not losing fans to other sports. But what do I know I am about a few billion 9 million 9 hundred thousand 9 hundred and 9 dollars from their income. think $1. well not that bad but you get the point. Those that fail to update their model are doomed to fail. Look at Sears, Penny’s Etc.

  3. We were enjoying the games and the product was getting better by the week. QBs improving; I saw some great throws in recent weeks. Last week’s Memphis game was wild and crazy. NFL Network gave them a good ride. Feel bad for the players, but they’ll have some stories to tell … And Spurrier will get some rest post-op, looks like he needs it. A shame.