52 days. That’s all the Alliance of American Football (AAF) lasted as the league suspended operations on Tuesday.The Apollos mark yet another failed professional football league in Orlando. At 7-1, the Apollos was the league’s best team but that record did not matter in the end.
Apollos President Michael Waddell said he was disappointed in the decision to stop eight games into the ten game season.
“While all startups encounter some challenges, we believed we could address ours in the offseason after bringing the city of Orlando a championship and a successful completion to the league’s first season,” Waddell said.
The league’s biggest struggle was money. Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon stepped in with a $ 250 million pledge for the AAF, essentially buying the league. Dundon decided to pull the plug once the AAF could not reach a deal with the NFL Player’s Union for players to be able to move freely from the NFL to the AAF. Dundon wanted the AAF to be a developmental league for the NFL and did not believe IT could continue without NFL backing.
Apollos Head Coach Steve Spurrier did not see it that way. Right after a team meeting to let the players know it was all over, Spurrier talked to the media.
“Some of us didn’t get into the Alliance to try to advance our careers,” Spurrier said. “I’m more disappointed for the players that believed this is my chance to show people that I can play this game.”
Spurrier insisted some of the AAF players will get their chances to shine on bigger stages.
“A lot will get opportunties,” Spurrier said. “They’ve shown enough.”
The Orlando Apollos thanked their supporters.
“The Alliance produced a quality professional football product, and it’s been our privilege to build the Orlando Apollos into a championship team with a league-best 7-1 record. The Greater Orlando community embraced our team from the beginning. Enthusiasm continued to grow throughout the season as large crowds of passionate fans supported us at Spectrum Stadium for our home games, and many others watched and rooted for the Apollos’ success from afar,” the team noted.
Orlando was great on the field but had less desirable results with attendance. The team drew 20,000 fans twice and 18,000 fans in its only three home games.
Spurrier emphasized the team’s on-field performance and declared the Apollos the best in the AAF.
‘I’m disappointed, but on the other side, we’ve got to be the champs right? We are 7-1 and the next teams are 5-3,” he said, adding that it was sad for the AAF to end this way.
The Apollos now join a full graveyard of professional football teams that have tried to call Orlando home and failed. Their tombstone will lie next to the Panthers, Blazers, Renegades, Thunder, Rage and Tuskers.
Next up for spring football in Florida is the XFL in Tampa. They will try to relaunch that league in Spring 2020 with former Chicago Bears Head Coach Marc Trestman leading that team.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.