The American Alliance of Football looks close to being done after only 52 days of operation. Primary investor Tom Dundon is reportedly pulling his initial $250 million investment, as it’s been reported by Darren Rovell that Dundon has lost about $70 million so far.
That led to Monday’s announcement that the league is suspending football operations. This has been seen as a precursor to the league folding.
One of the more prominent faces in the league is former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, a quarterback for the Memphis Express. He advised his fellow league players to not sue the league for more money, but live with the final paychecks to be received later this month.
He tweeted soon after that the news is “Just the reality of this unfortunate situation.”
“Great concept, good football on the field and fun for fans to watch. Just not enough money to go around which has been the main problem with “other” leagues for a long time.”
The Athletic reported back in late February that the league was running short on cash, threatening its ability to meet payroll Friday, Feb. 15. It said Dundon’s commitment enabled the AAF to meet its obligations.
This initial reporting was contradicted by NFL Draft scout Benjamin Allbright, instead reporting those initial payment problems were glitches:
I can tell you the Athletic either didnt have inside AAF sourcing, or that sourcing lied.
They switched systems & had a glitch. The AAF had enough capital to pay out payroll for the next year & a half without the cash infusion.
One of the other personalities in the league is Orlando Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier, the former national championship winning coach for the Florida Gators in 1996.
His Apollos were the team in the best position to win the league in its inaugural season. At 7-1, the Apollos were at least two games in front of the next closest competition.
Spurrier talked about the original goal of the league, and how the speculation about folding is indicative that the original vision has changed.
“The Alliance was started under the pretense of signing players who aren’t in the NFL and giving them a chance to play in our league,” Spurrier said to Saturday Down South. “And if they play well enough in our league, then maybe they’ll get the opportunity to play in the NFL. That was the original plan, but obviously, the plan has changed.”
Many of the league’s players are practice squad players in the NFL looking for a chance for playing time during the offseason. One of the league’s best running backs is De’Veon Smith of the Apollos. He is sixth in the league in rushing and second in rushing touchdowns.
He has hopped around practice squads and 53-man rosters for the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins before landing in Orlando this past February.
For people like him and Manziel, the AAF is close to no longer being an option. The Canadian Football League starts up again in November, and the newest version of the XFL is set to begin in 2020.