After eight weeks of games and less than one season into its existence, Alliance of American Football owner Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all operations, league co-founder Bill Polian said Tuesday.
I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football," Polian said in a statement Tuesday. "When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself 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."
The league had been struggling from the outset. After the first week of the season, Dundon -- owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes -- pledged a $250 million investment and essentially became the AAF's owner.
The league shot down reports that it needed the money to stay afloat. Instead, sources said at the time that there was an issue with the payroll company the league was using.
"I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded," Polian said in his statement. "They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action."
Despite a litany of issues, ratings had remained fairly consistent for the league, with between 400,000 and 500,000 viewers often tuning in for games, according to ratings reports. And the league got a bump in attention after Johnny Manziel signed last month and was allocated to Memphis.
The league signed all players to three-year, non-guaranteed contracts worth $70,000 in the first year, $80,000 in the second year and $100,000 in the third year. The hope, Polian said, was that the league would send players to the NFL.
In his statement Tuesday, Polian said he'll do "all I can" to help the league's players do that.
"My thanks go out to all who made our football product so competitive and professional," Polian said. "I am certain there are many among them destined for future success in the NFL and I look forward to doing all I can to help them in their quest."
Ebersol told ESPN in January that they had structured the league around a "sober business plan" because he believed he had learned lessons from his father, Dick Ebersol, who helped run the first version of the XFL.
Problems, however, popped up surrounding the nascent league that was trying to be a complement to the NFL.
Due to insurance issues, the Orlando Apollos had to move their practices three hours away to Kingsland, Georgia.
Orlando coach Steve Spurrier, whose team leads the league with a 7-1 record, told reporters Tuesday that it was "sad to end this way."
"We're all disappointed, but on the other side, we got to be the champs, right?" Spurrier told reporters. "We're 7-1 and the next teams are 5-3. Some of us didn't get into the Alliance to advance our careers, but the players ... I'm more disappointed for all the players that believe 'This is my chance to show people this, that and the other that I can play this game.'
"And a lot of them will get opportunities. They've shown enough."
The AAF last month also moved its title game from Las Vegas to Frisco, Texas. UNLV, which owns Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, told ESPN after a public records request, "There was no signed agreement between UNLV and the Alliance of American Football/Legendary Field Exhibitions, LLC." The game was expected to be played there, though, as Sam Boyd Stadium had been selling tickets on its website as late as the day it was announced the game would be moving.
Even back in training camp, the league wouldn't allow independent reporters to view preseason games in San Antonio.
The AAF also had intriguing rule changes, including a miked-up replay official and eliminating kickoffs and extra points. The AAF also eliminated the onside kick and created a fourth-and-12 scenario, where if a team converted, it would keep the ball. A variation of it was proposed during last week's NFL owners meetings but did not get approved.
Over the past two weeks, though, reports surfaced of the league trying to work with the NFL Players Association on allowing practice squad players with futures contracts to participate in the AAF. Dundon had told USA Today last week that if the league was unable to work out an agreement with the NFLPA to share players, options then would include "discontinuing the league."