Had things gone as planned, I’d currently be mourning the end of Major League Football’s fourth season and – since MLFB is a publicly traded company – be cashing those sweet dividend checks.
Hopefully I’d also be celebrating the Alabama Airborne’s championship, (although I’d still wonder why my team was named after a dietary supplement designed to ward off the common cold and improve immune function).
However, things rarely go as planned when it comes to Brand X football, and this particular league might go down in history as one that lasted the longest without ever having really existed.
An explanation, I assume, is in order.
In January, 2015, the Orlando Sentinel ran a piece about Major League Football, which would debut in the spring of 2016 and fill the unquenchable thirst of football fans who go into withdrawal following the Super Bowl. (At least that’s what every founder of any spring football league always says. If we don’t have a football game immediately following the NFL finale in February, our lives are empty).
Former Florida and NFL standout Wes Chandler was named league president while former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Vainisi served as CEO.
“We all, after (Super Bowl) Sunday, will be looking for football,” Chandler told the paper. “TV will be looking for content, and there won’t be any. We’ll sit and wait on Alabama or Texas or Florida or Florida State to put on their spring game.”
In its original incarnation, the league was to start with 10 teams as part of a single entity ownership model. There would be a 12-week regular season schedule, a 43-player active roster, and players could participate in the league for no more than four years. Older athletes would “age out” at 32.
Pay would average $2,500 per game except for the franchise player, who would be a year-round employee of MLFB and serve as something of a brand ambassador. Players would also receive “community service and life-skills” training.
It would be a developmental circuit but not a minor league because, hey – it has “Major League” in its title.
“The very first thing we wanted to be was not adversarial to the National Football League,” Chandler said.
A year later, in January, 2016, MLFB signed a two-year TV deal with American Sports Network and held a territorial draft that lasted 70 rounds. Galen Hall, tapped as the head coach of the Florida entry, selected Sunshine State native and South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia as his “franchise” player, and all the picks were set to gather at a Florida-based training camp on February 15.
At the time no teams had been officially named, but MLFB did register trademarks for the Alabama Airborne, Arkansas Attack, Florida Fusion, Ohio Union, Oklahoma Nation, Oregon Crash, Texas Independence and Virginia Armada, so Major League Football was on its way.
Except, of course, it wasn’t.
Four days before training camp was set to start, it was reported that a $20 million investment had been pulled. Four months after that, the league was served eviction papers at its Lakewood Ranch, Florida, offices.
Chandler resigned in the summer of 2017 and the coaches had no teams to coach, so they scattered as well. Aside from Hall, well-known guys such as Dave Campo and Ted Cottrell were set to take MLFB on its maiden voyage.
But no worries … it would work through this hiccup and be back better than ever.
California-based businessman Jerry Craig took over the league in September, 2017, and while it was too late to get a season going for that year, it would debut in 2018. This time the team sites were undecided, but smaller cities such as Montgomery, Alabama, and Round Rock, Texas, had been added to the mix.
Unfortunately (spoilers ahead!), MLFB did not start in 2018 and Craig left after having a cup of coffee.
As late as April of that year officials claimed an abbreviated exhibition-type season would start in the summer, serving as a soft opening for a real, honest-to-goodness campaign that would commence in the spring of 2019.
Spring 2019 sprung, and there was nary an MLFB team in sight.
But bless ‘em, the people involved with the league – and it’s been a revolving door – still insist they’re going to get this thing off the ground. And take heart – late last month MLFB dropped a bombshell via this Facebook post (presented in its pristine state):
Today Major League Football, Inc filed its Annual Report with the SEC as of 4/30/19 (10 K) which disclosed, among other things our plans to commence play in 6 cities beginning with a Florida training camp in April 2020.
Leases have been signed and deposits made for 3 of the cities and our outside broadcasting and marketing firm has complete its initial work. Of even greater significance, we announced that we have acquired approximately 90% of the Alliance of American Football League’s equipment through the bankruptcy court and an indoor football League valued in excess of 3 million dollars.
This constitutes over 32,000 items ranging from 1000 sets of helmets and pads, sophisticated electronic gear (computers, TV’s, XOS systems), basically everything they used to run their 8 team League. on and off the field. Also included were scores practice items, uniforms and medical supplies.
Further information will be made shortly via SEC filings and Press Releases.
Their Facebook page is also full of angry hopefuls who apparently paid a tryout fee for a league that – after four years – still hasn’t hired any players.
At any rate, here’s hoping the Alabama Airborne is one of the six flagship clubs, because I really believe 2020 is the year they valiantly fight off cough due to cold and win it all. And you best believe all systems are go because according to the MLFB website, the league is “Kicking Off Spring 2020.”
Of course that statement is the only thing currently on the website, so …