Top Ten Forgotten Alternative Football Leagues
Today I will go over 10 forgotten alternative football leagues of the past. They had to have been founded post American Football League (AFL)-National Football League (NFL) merger as the ones before then are much harder to find documentation of. I’m omitting the North American Football League due to it never actually planning on playing and I will not be talking about regional leagues. One last qualification is that the league must be 100% dead so, because Major League Football decided to bid on former Alliance of American Football equipment, so you won’t hear about the league of this list.
In the number ten spot we have the United States Football League (USFL) which started play in 1983 and folded in 1985. The league was one based off “The Dixon Plan.” The USFL was full of major talent, promise, expansion, mergers and folding. Some of the bigger names that came though the USFL included: “The Minister of Defense” Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Bryan Sipe, Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, George Allen, Mouse Davis, Marv Levy, Jack Pardee, Jim Mora Sr, Lee Corso and Steve Spurrier just to name a few. This league had a strong chance of lasting a long while, but future United States President, Donald J. Trump (the then owner of the New Jersey Generals) talking other league owner to move the schedule to the fall to try to force a National Football League NFL-USFL merger. This merger never happened, and the USFL would later sue the NFL claiming the NFL was an illegal monopoly. Though the USFL would win the anti-trust lawsuit they only won three dollars, pulling the plug on the hospice patient of a league.
At the number nine spot we have the World Football League (WFL). The WFL was founded by Gardy Davidson who had co-founded the World Hockey Association (a hockey league that partly merged into National Hockey League) and the American Basketball Association (a league that partly merged into the National Basketball Association) making him an experienced man in upstart rival sport leagues. The WFL kicked off in 1974 with twelve teams spread out across three divisions. There were also some differences from the NFL at the time, including, but not limited to: seven point touchdowns with a one point conversion from the two and a half, a 20 game schedule, no fair catches and an overtime broken up into two seven and a half minute portions among other changes. The 1974 season was a troubled one as Jacksonville (who was supposed to host the championship game, the World Bowl) and Detroit folded mid-season, Chicago forfeiting a week 20 game and New York moving to Charlotte. After the World Bowl ended in a Birmingham Americans victory over the Florida Blazers, 22-21, the Americans’ uniforms were impounded to help pay off team debt. The league attempted to go through a second season but folded part-way through. Later, the Mid-South Grizzlies sued the NFL attempting to force a merger. The Grizzlies lost the case. The league is best remembered for getting Larry Csonka and Ken Stabler to join its ranks and using a device called the dickerod to measure first downs.
In the number eight spot we have the United Football League (UFL) which lasted from 2009 through 2012. The league played in the fall in second tier markets as a minor/developmental league. Thoughthe UFL was founded all the way back in 2007 it took until 2009 to begin play (maybe the Alliance of American Football could have taken note). The league started off with four teams which were: the Florida Tuskers, California Redwoods, Las Vegas Locomotives and New York Sentinels. At the end of the season the Las Vegas Locomotives defeated the Florida Tuskers in an overtime thriller 20-17 in Sam Boyd Stadium. The 2010 Season consisted of the Las Vegas Locomotives, Florida Tuskers, Hartford Colonials (formally the New York Sentinels) and the Sacramento Mountain Lions (the former California Redwoods) and the expansion Omaha Nighthawks. This season was arguably the best in league history as the league averaged around 9,678 people per game. The Locomotives rematched against the Tuskers in the 2010 UFL Championship Game in Omaha. When the dust settled, the Locomotives pulled out a 23-20 win in front of 15,310 fans. For the 2011 Season all five franchises returned with the Tuskers relocating to Virginia Beach, becoming the Destroyers. The league faced major issues during the season, causing an early offseason with the Nighthawks hosting the Mountain Lions for a postseason consolation game where the Mountain Lions won 25-19. The UFL Championship Game was between the Locomotives and the Destroyers as Verginia won 17-3 in font of 14,172 attendees. By the start of the 2012 Season the writing was on the wall and the league folded on October 20, 2012.
At the number seven spot is the Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL). The FXFL was another attempt at a feeder league of the NFL and held its first season in 2014 with the Florida Blacktips (a traveling team), Brooklyn Bolts, Boston Brawlers and Omaha Mammoths as charter members. The league’s first season was lackluster and the FXFL canceled the championship game as they awarded the Bolts the league title based on the team’s record. After the 2014 season the Mammoths and Brawlers folded and the Hudson Valley Fort joined the league. After the 2015 regular season ended the league wouldn’t award a team the FXFL title and the league folded. The most memorable thing about the league is that CEO Brian Woods is now the CEO of The Spring League that currently has a partnership with the XFL.
In the number six slot we have the Spring Football League (SFL). The league had Eric Dickerson, Drew Pearson, Bo Jackson and Tony Dorsett as its founders. At first the league was to have ten teams playing a twelve week schedule, but that never came to fruition. Instead the league planned to play out a four game mini-series with four teams in the Los Angeles Dragons, Miami Tropics, Houston Marshalls and San Antonio Matadors. Sadly, the league folded after two games with the undefeated Matadors and Marshalls being crowned co-champions.
At number five we have another league that got little exposure and fell hard, Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the Regional Football League (RFL). I don’t know why the RFL had the “Regional” name since they had teams from Toledo to New Orleans. The league had six teams: Ohio Cannon, New Orleans Thunder, Shreveport Knights, Mobile Admirals, Mississippi Pride and Houston Outlaws. Only one total game was televised (on a mainly religious television network) but the RFL had two forfeits. The seasons would be played to conclusion as the Admirals defeated the Outlaws 14-12 in Regional Bowl I. After the season, the league folded.
From here on out we will dive into the world of “phantom leagues” or league that never never took the field for various reasons.
In the number four slot we have the Professional Spring Football League (PSFL). Out of all of the “phantom leagues” the PSFL became the closest to taking the field. There supposed to be ten team spread nationwide and The Red White And Blue Bowl to be the title game thing looked to be on track. Teams were in camp, tickets were sold and roster cuts had been made when ten days before the league kickoff the league folded. An attempt to come back in 1993 failed and the league was officially dead.
At the number three slot we have the Intercontinental Football League (IFL). Ithe IFL was to have been a way for the NFL to expand its reach in the mid 1970’s with Al Davis, Bob Kap and Tex Schramm spearheading the concept. The 1975 season was to have teams in Munich, Germany; Vienna, Austria; Rome, Italy; Barcelona, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey. Some of the main reasons cited for the league never taking the field were Europe not being ready for the sport, the NFL player strike that summer, the economic recession in America and competition from the WFL (who was looking to expand worldwide). Though the league never played, some credit it with introduction the game to Europe and planting the seeds for the World League of American Football (later NFL Europe and NFL Europa).
In the number two slot we have the All American Football League (AAFL). This league was supposed to kick off in 2008 with 6 teams: Team Texas, Team Tennessee, Team Michigan, Team Florida, Team Arkansas and Team Alabama. All AAFL players would to have earned a four-year degree or higher education to play in the league, cutting down on the potential player pool. This isn’t to say there wasn’t there wasn’t talent as players such as Eric Crouch, Chris Leak, Peter Warrick and Dallas Renegades running backs coach Bobby Blizzard among other talents. The AAFL kickoff was pushed back to 2009, 2010 and 2011 and nothing happened with the league.
At number one is the International Football Federation (IFF). The league was going to consist of 13 teams from Hawaii to Toronto. The leagues owner would have included Dennis Murphy who founded World Team Tennis, Roller Hockey International and co-founded the WHA and ABA along with six time Grammy winner Dionne Warwick among others. That’s all that is known about this league that could have been.