The Alliance of American Football (AAF) was a great idea, even if the execution was terrible.
Charlie Ebersol, Bill Polian, etc. founded the AAF with hopes of creating a revolutionary new spring football league that would last for years to come.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Michael Rothstein detail how the AAF squandered hundreds of millions of dollars as the league flamed out before it completed its inaugural season.
Wickersham conducted interviews with Ebersol, Polian and others describing how the AAF was a failed venture from its original founding.
He details how an obsession with beating the XFL, a sketchy investor (later indicted for cryptocurrency fraud) and the singing competition show “The Voice” led to a colossal failure of the spring league.
Ebersol, the son of former NBC Executive Dick Ebersol, sought to create a league that did something that Vince McMahon’s first version of the XFL couldn’t do…succeed.
Backed by early investors, names such as Hall of Famer Bill Polian, and a television deal in hand with CBS, Ebersol thought he had the key to spring league gold.
From the outset, the AAF was unable to secure long term financial security to make the league profitable beyond the scheduled three seasons.
Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon couldn’t even save the league after investing hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money into the startup.
Bizarre stories of AAF coach Rick Neuheisel wanting to have a draft similar to that of the singing competition “The Voice”, tell the story of how the league attempted to differentiate itself and failed miserably.
Investors with sketchy backgrounds such as Reggie Fowler, describe a league in desperate of need of money, and would obtain it by any means necessary.
Fowler, who promised the AAF $50 million, with $120 million in a line of credit, to be paid out in $15 million installments, was later indicted for cryptocurrency real estate investment fraud.
At one point the Ebersols looked to merge with McMahon and his new XFL (debuting in 2020) as the league continued to hemorrhage money.
McMahon rebuffed their offer, opting to move forward by himself.
The story is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the league and what ultimately led to its demise.
The league’s inability to operate at a profit, despite initially pulling in good television ratings, combined with empty promises and mismanagement, led to the league ultimately folding.
The failed AAF, now mired in multiple bouts of litigation after accusations of unpaid benefits and wages, provides a cautionary tale of overeagerness and aggressiveness that proved to be fatal.
Take a look at the league’s ultimate demise.