This past weekend marked the debut of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). It drew more viewers than the NBA on ABC which is amazing and shows how much we as Americans love football and also how curious we are of a new league. Part of that curiosity was on display during our WNYPLA Weekly Meeting.
I was asked about the possibilities of expansion to Rochester so let’s dive deeper into this. Believe it or not, this actually needs to be written in two parts. Part 1 will explore how the league could expand and make it’s way to the Flower City. Part 2 will explore the stadium needed to house such a league and if it is even feasible.
There are many things that separate the AAF from previous “Rebel Football Leagues.” Most importantly, it is NOT in direct competition with the NFL! The original XFL back in 2001 tried to be an alternative to the NFL with Vince McMahon calling the NFL the “No Fun League” and coming up with rules, specific to making their game different and more appealing than the NFL. Do you remember the Scramble that replaced the coin toss? The AAF instead is working with the NFL and even has games being aired on NFL Network. In other-words, it has the blessing of Roger and the big league.
Another difference is that this league is being ran by people with relevant connections to the NFL. This is the brainchild of Charlie Ebersol (Son of longtime NBC Sports executive, Dick Ebersol) who has Bill Polian, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Justin Tuck and Jared Allen with high ranking roles with the league. This gives the league instant credibility with players, fans and most importantly…potential investors.
This brings us to the question of expansion. If this league is being groomed as a developmental league for the NFL, then it is possible to turn the league into a true farm league. In order for that to happen, each NFL owner would have to own their farm team. Currently the league owns all eight teams which are smartly located in mostly warm weather cities.
In order for Rochester to get a team in the Alliance, it would need the Pegula’s to purchase a franchise to be the feeder to the BILLS, in the same way they bought the Amerks to be the feeder to the Sabres.
Why would the NFL and AAF go to a full fledged, 32-team farm system? Wouldn’t that dilute the product? It gives the league an actual 12-month on field footprint and with the owners owning the teams, they would then control the revenue and the profits for the team. Also it would allow the league to develop new rules concepts which is something the AAF is already doing with eliminating the kickoff, shortening TV Timeouts, shortening the play-clock and the 4th & 12 Onside Conversion play.
From an on-field perspective it would allow the team to develop it’s talent from within, specifically the quarterback position. You think of all the young, promising rookies that flamed out, a developmental league where they can learn an NFL System could have been huge to sustaining their careers. Imagine if EJ Manuel could have played minor league ball in the Spring to then develop and be ready for the BILLS come training camp?
The first step to Rochester getting a true, professional football team is the AAF showing sustainability which it has a model and a partnership that looks promising for that and then it needs the NFL owners to take enough interest to want to develop talent in-house. This is not an overnight concept. This is probably at least 5-10 years into the future but hey, this is Rochester and we can dream.
Part 2 will explore the type of stadium needed to house such a team.