Indoor and Arena Football History
Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL)Active: 1998-2001
In 1998, semipro football administrator Dick Suess, noting the success of the AFL, launched the Professional Indoor Football League, the first indoor alternative to the Arena League. The league featured one major difference from the AFL - the lack of rebounding nets, in Suess's opinion the only aspects of AFL game play protected by its patent. The PIFL began the season with eight teams, most of them semipro owners or coaches who knew Suess previously.
Financial problems with several teams became apparent almost immediately. The Minnesota Monsters had set up shop at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds Coliseum, a substandard facility with turf in disrepair. They ran out of money after just three weeks of play. The Texas Bullets had borrowed $6,000 for equipment and not paid back the league. The Colorado Wildcats had folded in midseason before being rescued by new ownership. By June, only the Louisiana Bayou Beast Green Bay Bombers and Madison Mad Dogs didn't owe the league money, and by the end of the season, the league was asking all teams to save official footballs for the championship game because the league could not afford to have more made.
To make matters worse, the Arena Football League filed suit against the PIFL for patent infringement. While the AFL claimed PIFL play infringed on its patented game system, the PIFL countered that the only aspect of the game patented by the AFL was the use of endzone rebound nets which the PIFL did not use. After months of legal sniping, the two leagues reached an agreement on July 21, 1998, the end result of which was the AFL's acknowledgment the PIFL had the right to play indoor football.
Even so, at least one owner had seen enough of the league. Keary Ecklund, co-owner of Green Bay and Madison, had to pay the expenses for some teams to travel to Wisconsin for scheduled games and had been forced to cancel dates in Green Bay and Madison when the opposition could not afford to travel. On the heels of the legal victory, he announced his intentions to start a new league. His teams would finish the season in the PIFL before moving to a new league - the Indoor Football League. Suess countered with a press release titled, "The only league that Keary Ecklund owns is in his Mind," and any hopes for reconciliation ended.
The league changed its name to the Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL) in 1999 under new commissioner Mike Storen. The Louisiana Bayou Beast was the only returning team, and they were joined by the Texas Terminators (Austin, TX), Hawaii Hammerheads (Honolulu, HI), Mississippi Fire Dogs (Biloxi, MS), Idaho Stallions (Boise, ID) and Rocky Mountain Thunder (Colorado Springs, CO) to form a six-team circuit. Burdened by travel costs, the Hammerheads struggled to make it through the season but persevered to win the league title. In a significant improvement from the inaugural season, all scheduled league games were played.
More changes came to the IPFL in 2000 as the Louisiana Rangers (Alexandria, LA) replaced the Bayou Beast, and the Mobile Seagulls, Omaha Beef, Portland Prowlers and Shreveport-Bossier Bombers took the place of the departed Hammerheads, Terminators and Thunder.
The league suffered a fatal blow in 2001 when Louisiana, Mobile and Mississippi left to become founding members of the National Indoor Football League, spearheaded by Louisiana owner Carolyn Shiver, the only remaining original owner from the 1998 season. Dismayed by Storen's strict control over league business and the lack of additional expansion franchises, she felt a new league, with her at the helm, was needed to spread the sport further. Unfortunately, that left the IPFL with just five teams. Joining the Omaha Beef were the renamed Boise Stallions and the expansion Trenton (NJ) Lightning, Tennessee ThunderCats (Knoxville, TN) and St. Louis Renegades. The Lightning folded six weeks into the season when owner Phil Subhan ran into legal trouble, and the league hobbled through the remainder of the season by propping up the ownerless Boise franchise. Rich Coffey, slated to be part of a Fort Wayne expansion team in 2002, took over as commissioner, but the league could not be saved. Omaha, St. Louis and Tennessee would move to the NIFL.Colorado Wildcats
Fort Wayne Safari
Rocky Mountain Thunder