The Final Whistle

Can the Alliance of American Football sustain itself alongside the NFL?

More stories from Jon Fortier

The Final Whistle
May 15, 2019

Photo by (c) Can Stock Photo / dehooks

Is the AAF playing it too safe, or could it be feasible?

Another professional football league has been started and fans no longer have to go six months without football after the super bowl. The Alliance of American Football kicked off this past weekend with a bright future in hand.

Overnight ratings, according to CBS, outperformed the ABC primetime NBA matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets. CBS gained 2.9 million viewers over the course of its Saturday AAF games while ABC had just 2.1 million viewers for its NBA matchup. The AAF fills the football void left by its NFL counterpart.

Amongst the things that make the AAF a popular option for football fans are the new rules that were put into place. The rules highlight player safety, as there are no kickoffs or onside kicks. Instead, teams will start their drive on their own 25-yard line in place of the absent kickoff. Eliminating kickoffs has been thrown around by the NFL competition committee for years with no results. For onside kicks, teams will be given the opportunity to convert a fourth and 12 from their own 28-yard line in the final five minutes of the game.

The AAF is also implementing the position of a sky judge that reviews calls made by officials in the final five minutes. Most notably, the sky judge will review any pass interference calls made within that time. This rule comes on the heels of a no-call in the NFC championship game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.

Players and coaches that can’t make it in the NFL will have a chance to showcase their talents in the AAF. This could lead to the new league being similar to a minor league system that is featured in other sports such as the MLB and NBA.

With all of the positives of the AAF comes one big negative: this has been tried before. From 1983 to 1985, the United States Football League played spring and summer schedules until 1986 when they moved their schedules to fall in order to compete with the NFL to force a merger. The USFL went bankrupt before the 1986 season started and losses were reported to be over $163 million.

Fast forward to 2001, Vince McMahon, CEO of the WWE, started a football league of his own. It was called the XFL. This new league promised fewer rules in order to facilitate a more violent play style but ultimately failed after one season due to its association with the WWE. Now, with the emergence of the AAF, McMahon has plans to reboot the XFL in 2020, which will further oversaturate the market.

While the AAF is popular now, it can in no way compete with the popularity and tradition of the NFL. The AAF can however find a home as a minor league system that prepares players for the NFL as well as a place to test new rules that make the game safer and more efficient.

Fortier can be reached at [email protected].