New Pro League Requires Degree

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.10, November 2006,

By spring, the professional football job market could be a little bigger for college graduates. Former NCAA President Cedric Dempsey is leading a high-powered charge to launch the All-American Football League (AAFL), which will take only players who have graduated and completed their college eligibility. Franchises will be located in college towns from major conferences such as the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten. The league has already secured facility-usage rights from the University of Florida and the University of Tennessee.

The AAFL hopes to tap into the fanatical followings of today’s major college programs by giving boosters and supporters the opportunity to watch their team’s players continue their playing careers. The universities will also benefit, as each franchise will pay $500,000 per game to rent out the host institution’s stadium. And the school will keep all monies earned from concessions and parking.

“We’re estimating that schools can make between three and five million dollars depending on parking and concessions,” says Dempsey, Board Chairman and Acting Commissioner of the AAFL. “And the institution really has nothing to lose because we’re paying the stadium rental fees up front.”

Dempsey says the league will feature six to eight teams playing a 10- to 12-week schedule beginning in April. Games will be played using NCAA rules and 44 to 46 players will comprise each franchise’s roster with nearly every player earning a six-figure salary.

“There aren’t many jobs that will pay grads $100,000 right out of school. And if they aspire to play in the NFL, it gives them a chance to hone their skills and be looked at,” says Dempsey. “For those who want to continue their education, they’ll be situated in a community where that can be facilitated.

“For those athletes who have not been drafted or who aren’t on an NFL roster, I think the AAFL will be a more attractive option than the European league and offer more of a traditional football structure than the Arena League,” he continues. “The schools have also expressed considerable support for our graduation requirement because it will add to the incentive for student-athletes to graduate, which will help APR scores.”

Dempsey says the AAFL is banking on the popularity of host-school players, and their supporters’ eagerness to keep watching those players after they graduate. “I think there will be the opportunity for the host institution to have 15 to 20 players on the team, and we anticipate most of the other players will come from the host school’s league or other schools in that region,” says Dempsey, adding that NCAA Division II and III players will also be eligible. “We would like the teams to have regional representation and keep as many players near home as possible.”

Franchises will sell for two to three million dollars, though the league will set the payroll for players and coaches to control spending. “Identifying potential franchise owners and securing finances is our next step,” says Dempsey, who is working closely with potential host schools to locate owners, who will be responsible for making operational decisions, including selecting coaches for their teams. “In most cases, we see franchise owners being supporters of the institution—and through the stadium rental fees, they’ll be indirectly helping the institution they love.”