Evaluating the AAF at the Inaugural Season’s Midway Point

Story posted March 13, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Andre Magaro

The Alliance of American Football, otherwise known as the AAF, is at the midway point of its inaugural season. The concept of the league appeared to be rather useful and long overdue on paper – create a league for players trying to reclaim a spot in the NFL to display their skills, while also giving football fans an entertaining league to watch during the spring. The question remains: Has the league done an effective job at attaining its goals and setting itself up for long-term success?

From a player and game development standpoint, this new league is quite effective. The AAF has gone out on a limb to integrate new rule changes to the professional game in order to flesh out which ideas may be worth consideration for the NFL.

Some notable rule changes include a mandatory two-point conversion following kickoffs, a running clock following out of bounds plays unless within two minutes of halftime or five minutes of the fourth quarter and no kickoffs with the option to attempt a fourth-and-12 conversion on the team’s own 28-yard line to remain on offense after scoring when trailing by 17 or more points, or within the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.

These new rule changes may be a mouth full, but most of them have been rather highly regarded by most football fans. Fans also enjoy having a mic on the replay official, in order to better understand the review process.

The AAF’s main goal, however, is player development. This league is not just for show, but a redemption tour for athletes in search of a second chance to play football at the highest level.

Whether or not any players will succeed in the transition and find a permanent home on an NFL roster will probably be up in the air for quite some time. Athletes are not likely to be acquired until the conclusion of their team’s AAF season. However, the early returns show that the NFL is at least willing to consider these players.

Birmingham Iron quarterback Luis Perez was rumored to be contacted by up to eight teams following week one of the AAF season. Other standouts have also been rumored to have been contacted throughout the weeks as well.

The AAF has also allowed teams to get a new perspective on players previously overlooked. San Antonio Commanders wide receiver Greg Ward Jr. was previously a QB in college and was unable to juggle making the position change while fighting to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster. This season, he has been a huge weapon for the Commanders, finally looks comfortable in his new position and is catching the eye of NFL teams.

Iron running back Trent Richardson was a huge disappointment during his time in the NFL. With that said, teams relied on Richardson as a primary back for the bulk of his career. In the AAF, the Iron are utilizing him as a short-yardage and red zone back to a great degree of success. Perhaps this can allow Richardson to reinvent himself and get another chance.

Player development appears to be alive and well throughout the first five weeks of AAF play, but if the league wants to survive, it is going to need to increase both TV ratings and attendance.

Opening night was a huge hit for the AAF. Both games aired simultaneously on CBS, drawing in ratings of up to 2.9 million viewers, blowing away all other competition in the sports world.

However, since that debut week, things have trended downhill. Some sort of ratings dip was expected, as games transitioned from CBS to the less traditional networks, such as NFL Network, CBS Sports Network and TNT, in addition to a few games being exclusively streamed on Bleacher Report. Although, ratings have been slashed to less than a seventh of what they were on opening night and have continued to decrease as the season has progressed.

Only averaging 300,000-400,000 viewers per game will hurt the AAF as time goes on. This is because the league does not play very many adds throughout their broadcasts, hurting revenue.

This would not be as glaring of an issue if attendance figures were not struggling as well. The Commanders and Orlando Apollos are the only two teams averaging over 20,000 fans for home games. With most stadiums being mostly empty, ticket revenue can not be bountiful either.
To improve figures and make enough revenue to sustain itself, the AAF will likely need to improve ratings and attendance down the road. Perhaps bringing in a more reputable star, such as a Johnny Manziel, would help. However, it is tough to attract big names with a miniscule $50,000 wage.

The promise is there with the AAF, though it is far from a polished product.

 

 

Andre Magaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email ajm7362@psu.edu.