by Randy Snow
December 20, 2006 - Arena Football League (1987-2008) (AFL I)
As 2006 comes to an end, there are a lot of things going on in football. The NFL regular season is winding down, the college bowl games are heating up and the Heisman Trophy was recently handed out.
Yes, this is a great time of year to be a football fan. But for those who only follow the NFL and major college football, you sure missed out on a lot during the rest of the year. Here is a recap of just some of the football events you might have missed in 2006;
In the Arena Football League, the New Orleans VooDoo suspended operation for the 2006 season when their arena, which is next to the Superdome, was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The team\'s players were reassigned to an expansion team, the Kansas City Brigade.
The Chicago Rush defeated the Orlando Predators 69-61 in ArenaBowl XX on June 11. The game was played in Las Vegas for the second year in a row.
It was announced on December 19 that ESPN has purchased a minority interest in the Arena Football League and will broadcast AFL games over the next five years on its family of networks. The ArenaBowl will be aired on ESPN\'s sister network, ABC.
The arenafootball2 championship game was played in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 26. The Spokane Shock defeated the Green Bay Blizzard 57-34. Two af2 teams folded after the 2006 season, the Memphis Xplorers and the Macon Knights. Several expansion teams were added to the league, bringing the total number of teams to 30 for 2007, up from 23 teams last season. Also, the Birmingham Steeldogs have changed their name to the Alabama Steeldogs for next year.
In the American Indoor Football League, the Canton Legends defeated the Rome (Ga.) Renegades 61-40 on July 3. After the season was over, the league changed its name to the American Indoor Football Association.
2006 also saw the debut of a new indoor football league, the Great Lakes Indoor Football League. The six-team league is the only indoor league that plays seven-on-seven football. Its first games were played on April 7 and the season concluded on July 22 with the Great Lakes Bowl. The Port Huron (Mich.) Pirates defeated the Rochester (NY) Raiders 40-34. The league has since changed its name to the Continental Indoor Football League and expanded to 14 teams for 2007.
The National Indoor Football League had a very rocky season in 2006. There was one whole team that was fired, replaced by other players and then the original team was rehired when new owners took over the team. There were other ownership problems and games that were either cancelled or forfeited for various reasons. But in the end, it was the Billings Outlaws defeating the Fayetteville Guard 59-44 in the league championship game on July 28.
In United Indoor Football, the Sioux Falls Storm repeated as champions of the league. They defeated the Lexington Horsemen 72-64 on July 29.
The American Professional Football League championship was awarded to the Kansas Koyotes by a score of 2-0 in a forfeit win over the Wichita Aviators on August 5. The Aviators were originally scheduled to host the championship game, but two potential venues in Wichita were unavailable to host the game. The league decided to move the game to Topeka, KS, but the Aviators refused to travel to Kansas to play the game. It was the fourth consecutive league title for the Koyotes.
The Intense Football League re-formed in 2006 after disbanding in 2005. The Odessa Roughnecks defeated the Corpus Christi Hammerheads 97-56 to win the league championship on August 12.
The British Columbia Lions defeated the Montreal Alouettes 25-15 in the 94th Canadian Football League Grey Cup championship game played in Winnipeg on November 19.
The CFL schedule had to be reworked at the last minute when the Ottawa Renegades were dropped from the schedule on April 9, leaving the league with eight teams instead of the usual nine. New ownership for the team could not be secured in time for the 2006 season.
Running back Ricky Williams, who was suspended by the NFL for a year after violating the league\'s substance abuse policy for a fourth time, signed and played for the Toronto Argonauts this year. His teammate, quarterback Damon Allen, became the all-time leader in pro football passing yardage during the season, surpassing Warren Moon. Allen, the older brother of NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, now has over 71,889 career passing yards over his 22-year CFL career.
The year began with New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie converting the first drop kick extra point in the NFL since 1941. It occurred in a 28-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins on January 1. On May 15, Flutie announced his retirement as a player after a 21 year career that spanned three different pro football leagues, the USFL, the CFL and the NFL.
Super Bowl XL was played in Detroit on February 5. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. On May 27, the Frankfurt Galaxy defeated the Amsterdam Admirals 22-7 in the NFL Europe World Bowl.
The New Orleans Saints returned to play in the Superdome this year after it was repaired from the damage it sustained during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
On November 7, former Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann failed in his bid to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania. However, former Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints quarterback Heath Shuler was elected to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of North Carolina.
Monday Night Football left ABC for the first time since it debuted in 1970 and moved to ESPN. NBC took over the Sunday Night game, which had previously been broadcast on ESPN.
Paul Tagliabue retired as the commissioner of the NFL. He had been the commissioner of the league since 1989. On August 8, NFL owners unanimously selected Roger Goodell as the new league commissioner.
The 2006 BCS National Championship was won by the Texas Longhorns. They defeated the USC Trojans 41-38 in the Rose Bowl back on January 4.
Legendary college football play-by-play broadcaster Keith Jackson announced his retirement on April 27. Jackson began calling college football games for ABC in 1966.
Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith wins the Heisman Trophy on December 9.
This season, four new bowl games were added to the college football bowl landscape. They are the Texas Bowl, the PapaJohn\'s Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl and the International Bowl in Toronto. The Fort Worth Bowl was renamed the Armed Forced Bowl and the Peach Bowl is now known as the Chic-fil-A Bowl.
In Division I-AA, Appalachian State repeated as national champions with a 28-17 win over Massachusetts on December 15. The next day, on December 16, three other college football champions were crowned. Division II saw Grand Valley State repeat as national champions with a 17-14 win over Northwest Missouri State and in Division III, Mount Union also repeated as national champs with a 35-16 win over Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championship was won by Sioux Falls in a 23-19 win over St. Francis of Indiana.
Blinn College, in Brenham, Texas ended the season in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) as the Number 1 team in the nation in the final NJCAA poll on December 11. My personal favorite junior college team, Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, was second.
On October 6, Division II North Dakota files a lawsuit against the NCAA in an effort to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname.
The NCAA announced that it was renaming the two Division I football divisions. Division I-A will now be known as the Football Bowl Subdivision and Division I-AA will be known as the Football Championship Subdivision. The NCAA also approved a standardized instant replay system for all Football Bowl Subdivision (Div I-A) conferences.
WOMEN\'S FOOTBALL LEAGUES
There are also three women\'s tackle football leagues with teams across the country. The National Women\'s Football Association, the Independent Women\'s Football League and the Women\'s Professional Football League. In the IWFL, the Atlanta Xplosion defeated the Detroit Demolition 21-14 on July 29. In the NWFA, the D.C. Divas defeated the Oklahoma City Lightning 28-7 on August 5 and in the WPFL, the Dallas Diamonds defeated the Houston Energy 34-27 on November 4.
2006 also saw the passing of several important figures in football;
Howard "Red" Hickey (died March 30) - Hickey was an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers and invented the shotgun formation in 1960. He was 89.
Harold Robinson (died May 9) - Robinson was the first black scholarship athlete in college football in 1949. He played at Kansas State and was elected to the school\'s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. He was 76.
Randy Walker (died June 29) - Walker was the head coach at Northwestern University. He died in his office of a heart attack. He was 52.
Harold Enarson (died July 28) - Enarson was the president of Ohio State University from 1972-1981. He will always be remembered as the man who fired Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes in 1978. Enarson was 87.
Collie Nicholson (died September 13) - Nicholson was the first Sports Information Director at Grambling State. He held the position for over 30 years and is credited with coming up with the "Classic" game concept, which had the team and its band travel around the country and the world to promote the school. He was 85.
Frank "Muddy" Waters (died September 20) - Waters was the head coach at three different colleges in the state of Michigan. He coached at Hillsdale College (1954-1973), Saginaw Valley State (1974-1978) and Michigan State (1980-1982). He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. He was 83.
Jack McGinley (died October 28) - McGinley was a part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was the brother-in-law of Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr. McGinley was 85.
Jackie Parker (died November 7) - Parker was a legendary figure in the Canadian Football League as a player, coach, broadcaster and general manager from 1954-1987. Parker was a member of the CFL Hall of Fame. He was 74.
Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler (died November 17) - Schembechler was the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines from 1969-1989. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He was 77.
Casey Coleman (died November 27) - Coleman was the radio play-by-play voice of the Cleveland Browns for over 30 years. In October of this year, the Browns renamed their indoor practice facility after him. He was 55.
Lamar Hunt (died December 13) - Hunt was the founder of the American Football League in 1960 and was also the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. He was 74.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2007
Those are just some of the things that happened in the football world in 2006. Now, here are a few of the things we can look forward to in 2007.
The BCS National Championship game will be played on January 8 in Phoenix, AZ,
Super Bowl XLI will be played on February 4 in Miami and the NFL Europe World Bowl championship game will be played on June 23 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Two new indoor football leagues are set to make their debut in February, the four-team World Indoor Football League and the five-team Eastern Indoor Football League.
The second edition of the Arena Football video game by EA Sports will go on sale on February 27. The game will feature Chicago Rush fullback/linebacker Bob McMillan on the cover and will also include teams from the AFL\'s developmental league, arenafootball2.
The New Orleans VooDoo are set to return to the AFL schedule in 2007 and the Arena Football League has announced that ArenaBowl XXI will be played in New Orleans on July 29.
There is so much going on in football all year long that the term "off-season" is really not applicable any more. One season simply rolls into another. The diversity of game play from league to league allows football fans follow the game all year long without getting tired of it. So get out there and enjoy all the football you can handle in 2007.