The List: It’s not the XFL, and that may be a good thing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Professional football with a collegiate atmosphere? Meaningful football games during the spring? Talented, motivated players?

It sounds like the creators of the All American Football League bored inside the minds of ravenous football fans and developed the best-case scenario.

For those of you who haven’t heard, this is the pro sports league that represents the next best chance for former collegiate football players to compete in the pro arena. Time will tell if this league lasts in a market that is not only owned, but devoured whole by the NFL.

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I’m not gonna blow sunshine here and tell you I’m optimistic, but this league has a lot of good selling points.

For starters, it has very strong ties to college football. Colleges – six to eight initially – will play host to teams and will lease their facilities for games. So far, the confirmed schools are Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Michigan and Texas.

The emphasis is on former players competing in a familiar collegiate stadium, or as closely as possible.

Which means your favorite Auburn, Alabama, Troy, UAB or Alabama State player that petered out in the NFL may be playing next spring.

Which is another draw for the league. A schedule that runs from April to early July means no competition from the NCAA or NFL.

And did you notice the heavy concentration of teams in the South? That’s hardly a coincidence.

“Not to slight anybody across the country, but having played for Florida I know first-hand how much people here love college football,” said AAFL spokesman and potential player Travis McGriff. “People care so much more about the NCAA than the NFL, and the only reason some follow the NFL is to watch college players.”

It’s also a requisite that players have earned a college degree and used all four years of their college eligibility.

Depending on whom you ask, college graduates are better drivers, have more successful marriages and are generally bigger contributors to the economy. Insisting on this rule adds a lot of credibility to the AAFL and provides its sole advantage over the NFL, a league suffering some severe image issues right now.

The board members are also top notch, not just a bunch of rich, bored fans of the game. Among them are former NCAA chairman Cedric Dempsey, former ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan and Jack Lengyel, known best for taking over as coach of the Marshall football program after a 1970 crash killed the majority of the team.

The list gets longer and more distinguished, including league financier Marcus Katz, a student loan guru.

Salaries have been reported to start anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000, which McGriff says is more than any professional league in North America or Europe, with the exception of the NFL.

The league stands by independent research that says fans are more than willing to pay admission or even watch games on TV.

Sounds good. But like I said, time will tell.

George L. Jones is sports editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at (334) 410-1744 or