This is a great story. NFL Hall of Famer (and former Browns great though better remembered for his days with the Bills’ “Electric Company”) Joe DeLamielleure called my attention to the formation of the All-American Football League, which hopes to be playing football in the spring. From the League’s website:
The All American Football League is a for-profit, professional football league.
Teams will initially operate as divisions of League whose football operations will be run by a quasi-independent board and General Manager. Some of the League’s teams will be hosted by universities with Division IA football programs and other teams will play in independent venues. Games will be scheduled in the spring and early summer.
League teams will employ only those players who have both completed their college football eligibility and earned a four-year degree. This policy is expected to have a very positive impact on universities’ NCAA Graduation Success Rate and their Academic Progress Rate. To the extent practical, graduates of host universities will play for the team hosted by their alma mater.
The League intends that each League team will sell memberships to its fans and supporters. Members may be entitled to renewable season tickets in preferred locations, preferred parking, and other “insider” benefits. The League also hopes to provide Members access to high-definition private broadcasts of League games.
How smart is this? Of course not all college players will realize that getting their degree adds to the chance of playing in a key league, but many will, and that’s the whole point of the enterprize (that and putting on some great spring football.) DeLamielleure sent me this clip:
Former [Middle Tennessee State University] running back Eugene Gross has an additional incentive to finish his degree. Gross wants to play in the new All-American Football League, but it requires players possess a four-year degree.
Gross, who recently earned his real estate license, lacks 13 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology. The All-American Football League is set to start in 2008.
“I want to put the pads on again because I’ve still got the love for the game in me,” said Gross, MTSU’s all-time leader in receptions among running backs.
“My agent is trying to get a tryout set up for me, but I’ve got to focus on school so that I can graduate in December and keep playing.”
Gross and former MTSU linebacker Justin Rainey were trying out in a one-day workout for the Buffalo Bills in June when the All-American Football League were holding open tryouts.
Someone at one of the networks should be building a reality series out of this, including the efforts by players like Gross to get their degrees finished in time to play in the first league.
Perhaps some billionaire with time on their hands who is looking for a new venture will recognize that this effort not only promises to open up the world of spring football, but could change the incentives at the college level profoundly if it succeeds.(The league does, however, need a franchise in Ohio asap.)