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What is the AAF?

March 17, 2019

Following this year’s Super Bowl, football fans wanted new entertainment until the NFL comes back after summer. In previous years, little football is played at a national level during the NFL offseason. But now, a new league is emerging and fans across the nation have noticed. The Alliance of American Football, better known as the AAF, looks to provide football for fans to watch while the NFL is in its offseason.

The AAF consists of eight teams: the Atlanta Legends, the Birmingham Iron, the Memphis Express, the Orlando Apollos, the Arizona Hotshots, the Salt Lake Stallions, the San Antonio Commanders and the San Diego Fleet. Several former NFL players joined the league, including controversial quarterback Johnny Manziel, running back Trent Richardson, kicker Nick Novak and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg, a former second round pick for the New York Jets who never stepped onto the field, received media attention after screaming several curse words on the field. He appeared unaware that he was mic’d up and could be heard on TV. The AAF also reached out to controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but it seems unlikely he will join, as Kaepernick demanded a $20 million salary while the average AAF player makes $75,000 per season according to ESPN.  

The AAF added several rule changes to speed up the pace of the game. The league eliminated television timeouts and show less commercials, opting to charge more money for advertisers in the limited slots available. This cuts down the time of the game from the average NFL game, shortening the game from 180 minutes to 150 minutes. In addition, no kickoffs occur during the game; teams start at the 25 yard line with each new possession. The play clock is also shortened from 40 seconds to 35 seconds.

Additional rules were included to differentiate the AAF from the NFL and make the game more interesting. Teams can no longer attempt an extra point kicks after a touchdown and now must go for a two point conversion. If a game goes into overtime, each team gets the ball at the 10 yard line and has four downs to score a touchdown and complete a two point conversion. If the score remains tied after each team gets a possession, the game ends in a tie except in the postseason, where there will be extra overtime periods.

Former football leagues before the AAF have attempted, and failed, to compete with the NFL. In 1999, WWE CEO Vince McMahon partnered with NBC to form the Xtreme Football League, better known as the XFL. Much like WWE events, the XFL featured instances of kayfabe (fake occurrences that make the game more dramatic) and featured rougher play than the NFL. However, the XFL folded after one season due to poor ratings, though McMahon has announced he intends to bring the XFL back in 2020.

Another example that hit close to home for Miami was the World Football League, also known as the WFL. The WFL reached out to several NFL players at the time and featured several Miami Dolphins legends, including wide receiver Paul Warfield and running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Despite temporarily having the star power to compete with the NFL, most star players left the WFL after one season. Eventually, the WFL folded midway through their second season. Some fans believe the AAF will end up the same way as these previous leagues.

“Look at what happened to the World Football League,” MPSH Art History teacher Peggy Falagan said. “We have enough football as it is.”

Even though the AAF has not even completed their first season, they have garnered significant coverage from the media and gotten the attention of fans. There are some talks of the NFL absorbing the AAF as a development league, much like the NBA and the G-League. Whether the AAF becomes a part of the NFL or stays independent, they will be sure to make the most of their national attention.

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