The Alliance of American Football announced it would cease operations on Tuesday, as the league’s majority investor Tom Dundon pulled the plug on the promising spring football league eight weeks into its inaugural season.
As a result, the Orlando Apollos, who finish with the league’s best record at 7-1, will not play their final two games at Spectrum Stadium as scheduled, nor will they play what likely would have been a playoff game on UCF’s campus, since they had clinched a playoff berth.
The team released a statement late Tuesday:
It’s a sad day for fans of UCF football, too, and not just because the Apollos played their home games at UCF:
Six former UCF Knights who played in The Alliance - five of them on the Apollos and one with the Atlanta Legends - saw perhaps their last best chance at a pro football career vanish virtually in an instant.
WR Rannell Hall
Hall finished as the team’s third-leading receiver with 20 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown:
OLs Jordan McCray, Aaron Evans and Chris Martin
McCray and Evans anchored the front line of the AAF’s most prolific offense.
While Martin did not see as much playing time as his fellow Knights, he was out in front of the organization’s promotional efforts, including conducting an interview with us for our podcast back when College GameDay was on campus. We’re thankful to Chris for his kindness that day, and as always.
DL Tony Guerad
Guerad played most of the season at nose tackle, and though he only recorded two tackles (such is life for the nose guard), be was an effective run-stuffer for the league’s 3rd-best defense. Here he was before the Apollos’ inaugural game:
QB Justin Holman
Holman was drafted by the Atlanta Legends and finished the season on their roster, but never took a snap:
All Alliance players their contracts terminated on Tuesday. Where their next opportunity may come is anyone’s guess. But many of them are stuck in pretty bad situations with the league imploding as quickly as it did:
Unorganized is an understatement...kicked out of our rooms (that weren’t paid apparently) 17 hours away from home with a car full of my belongings and nowhere to go...#JoinTheAlliance @TheAAF @CharlieEbersol @TDCanes @espn @BleacherReport @aafexpress— Anthony Manzo-Lewis (@amanzolewis) April 2, 2019
Of course, the players aren’t the only ones who saw their jobs go away. A few dozen Apollos employees - many of them full-time with deep UCF ties - also bid farewells-for-now on social media:
(1/3) JUST IN: The APOLLOS have waived Team Reporter Tom Alexander. He is expected to clear The Alliance waiver process and become a free agent. #TakeAim— Tom Alexander (@TheTomAlexander) April 2, 2019
I promised myself I wouldn’t cry . A privilege to work with this guy ⬇️. Always had my back, always there to lift the broadcast with his incredible knowledge & personality, and share laughs. Can’t wait to watch him again this fall on the world wide leader. #thxpartner https://t.co/JmRTu6YCOO— Jamie Seh (@jamieseh) April 2, 2019
I lost my dream job today. But I’m honestly very optimistic about the future, and I’m very proud of the work done. I don’t regret a single thing. Thank you all so much for the love and support. pic.twitter.com/uWmEP6lQjG— Christopher Stoney (@ChrisStoney) April 3, 2019
Whether you thought the league was doomed from the beginning or that it had a chance, it’s important to note that the collateral damage from Dundon’s unnecessarily hasty vulture-capitalist decision is the regular staff and the players. Tom Dundon, Charlie Ebersol, Bill Polian, and Steve Spurrier will all be just fine.
But the players, assistants and full-time staff all took fairly middle-class salaries to chase the dream and make a football league. They did all they could and did it quite well. By all accounts, the football was of better-than-competent quality, and it was entertaining. After working out the kinks in Week 1, 18 of the 28 games played in The Alliance - 64% - were decided by one possession. By comparison, 54% of NFL games in the 2018 season were decided by one score.
The situation at this hour seems to indicate that this whole situation is going to get a lot uglier as the power players involved begin to posture:
AAF co-founder Bill Polian issues strong statement after new owner Tom Dundon shuts league down. pic.twitter.com/YwFWaLFwwl— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019
Regardless of what comes out after this sad day, the deed is done, and a lot of good, hard-working people both on the field and off it in Orlando and the other seven cities are paying the price for a billionaire’s shell game, because The Alliance, for all its promise, left them on their own.