All American Football League has tough road facing NFL, NCAA

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In the land of professional football, the NFL is king. Not that there haven&8217;t been attempts in the past to usurp the throne. Spectators have seen the failed coups by such fledgling leagues as the World

Football League, the USFL and the most recently deceased XFL that have fallen to the wayside.

Since the American Football League and the National Football League joined forces and instituted one of the biggest sporting events in the world, the Super Bowl, no other startup has come close to disrupting the stranglehold the NFL has on professional football. But it hasn&8217;t deterred entrepreneurs from trying.

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The newest group to try and disrupt the NFL&8217;s earnings is taking a different approach at toppling the giant, or, rather, it is trying to bask in the giant&8217;s shade and hope it doesn&8217;t get crushed. The All American Football League is edging its way into the professional football arena and at the same time trying to appeal to fans of another football colossus, the NCAA.

To do so, league organizers are trying to start up teams in college football strongholds and, so as not to present an effort in futility by luring top college picks, looking to bring in players who were big names on the college level in the areas where teams are being established but not big enough to make the transition to the pros. The league is hoping that this, coupled with the decisions to retain college colors for uniforms and playing with rules more akin to the NCAA than the NFL, will draw fans to the parks and thus advertising dollars and television coverage.

Well, mister Katz, if you hold true to the college feel and can truly field teams that fans of college programs with large fan bases can relate to, you may have a chance. I am not saying that the league will ever compete with the NFL, but the original approach to pro ball may keep the league&8217;s head above water.

Katz and other organizers have realized that the biggest draw will be from fan bases of colleges that are, well, fanatical about their football. The league has set up teams in Birmingham (that will play at Legion Field no less), Florida (which will jump venues across the state) and tentative teams that will play at Tennessee, North Carolina State and Purdue. The league is also feeling around fort venues in Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas.

It sounds to me that the league is shaping up to be a professional SEC, not that it is a bad thing. SEC fans are notorious for their loyalty to their college programs and disdain for the NFL as a second-class venue for the sport. Keeping the group satiated with football more akin to their beloved college play, especially in the spring when they are hurting for some pigskin action as league organizers plan, is an interesting angle.

The move by the NFL to dissolve NFL Europe helps the fledgling league that is looking for talent as well, giving it a larger pool of players to draw from, and tryouts for the AAFL won&8217;t be held until the fall, drawing players that are cut in the preseason from NFL teams.

If the planned six to eight teams for the league can make good on the promise for entertaining play and the league can build its team numbers and exposure, it might prove more of a nuisance for the giant to squash once it notices something basking in its shade.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at