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San Antonio Completes Inaugural AAF Lineup

by Fran Stuchbury
June 21, 2018 - Alliance of American Football (AAF) - San Antonio Commanders

The Alliance of American Football announced San Antonio as its eighth and final franchise for the inaugural 2019 season at a press conference held on Thursday.

"San Antonio has always been on the top of our list as a city that's hungry for football, in a state that's crazy about the game. We're confident our commitment to putting high-quality football on the field, fueled by an alliance between fans, players and the game, will resonate with this community. The city of San Antonio is ready for a professional football team and we feel honored to be welcomed into their dynamic city," said AAF co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol. "Not only does San Antonio have a large population of football fans, it has a first-class stadium to host them in. The Alamodome is a perfect backdrop for Alliance San Antonio, and we are eager to give this city a competitive team, led by coach Mike Riley, that they can rally around and support"

He added, "We are proud to work with eight fantastic cities. The selected cities expressed a commitment to forging a partnership and have a passion and love for the game of football. The reception we have felt at each unveil has been tremendous and is just a taste of what's to come."

"Early on in our process we identified markets that we felt would make ideal destinations for our first eight Alliance cities and San Antonio has always been part of that dialogue," said Tom Veit, head of business operations for the league. "With so many great cities coming forward and many strong relationships being established, we are now confident that we not only have our first eight cities for year one, but a number of strong candidates for 2020."

The AAF franchise will join the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs, American Hockey League's San Antonio Rampage, United Soccer League's San Antonio FC and Texas League's San Antonio Missions on the San Antonio sports scene.

Mike Riley will be the team's head coach, while former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl fullback Daryl Johnston will serve as the general Manager.

"The Alliance provides an opportunity for players to begin, extend or restart their careers," added Johnston. "There are so many talented athletes who are right on the cusp of making an NFL roster but for one reason or another end up on a practice squad or out of football completely. We're going to give them the chance to show the football world what they can do, that they DO belong. A number of these guys are from the great state of Texas, where football is a way of life, and we look forward to having them in Alliance San Antonio uniforms."

"Mike's extensive experience coaching both sides of the ball at the collegiate and professional level will greatly benefit the Alliance San Antonio football team," added AAF co-founder and head of football Bill Polian. "This is an opportunity for Mike to return to the pros and continue teaching, mentoring and leading from the sidelines."

"From top to bottom, The Alliance has assembled an impressive roster of successful, knowledgeable, highly credible executives and coaches. It's indicative of the commitment The Alliance has to putting high-quality football on the field, and I'm proud to be a part of this," said Riley. "I want to bring a championship to this football hungry city, and I look forward to working closely with Daryl Johnston to build a championship caliber team. This is a unique opportunity for myself and the players that will step on the field for Alliance San Antonio, and we intend on making the most of it."

Riley, who played college football for the University of Alabama under legendary head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant from 1971-1974 as a defensive back, has a long coaching career. He started as a graduate assistant at California in 1975, then held the same position at Whitworth in 1976. From 1977 until 1982 he was the defensive coordinator at Linfield College. His six-year tenure featured five conference titles and an undefeated NAIA Division II championship season in 1982.

In 1983 he received his first taste of the pros when he became an assistant head coach with the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers and was part of their championship team in 1984. In 1987 at the age of 33 Riley became the second youngest coach in CFL history when he was named head coach of Winnipeg and led them to two Grey Cup championships in 1987 and 1990.

Riley also coached the San Antonio Riders in the World League of American Football, the NFL's official developmental league, in 1991 and 1992.

Mike Riley returned to college football in 1993 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at USC. In 1997 Riley became the head coach at Oregon State and coached the for two seasons. In 1999 Riley became head coach of the NFL San Diego Chargers and went 14-34 over three seasons.

In 2003 Riley returned as head coach with Oregon State. It marked the beginning of an 11-year run at the helm of that program. During his span, Oregon State would tally a 6-2 bowl game record and Riley finished his tenure as Oregon State's winningest coach in school history with 112 wins, including a victory over #1 ranked USC in 2008.

In 2015 Riley was named the head coach of Nebraska where he compiled a 19-19 mark in three seasons. Riley returned to Oregon State as an assistant in 2017.

Riley joins Steve Spurrier at Orlando, Brad Childress at Atlanta, Mike Singletary at Memphis, Craig Erickson at Salt Lake City, Rick Neuheisel at Phoenix, Mike Martz at San Diego and Tim Lewis at Birmingham as head coaches in the AAF.

The team will play its games at the Alamodome with a seating capacity for football of 64,000. The venue has hosted the annual Alamo Bowl since 1993 and has been the home of the UTSA Roadrunners since 2011. The CFL's San Antonio Texans played the 1995 season there, and in 2005 the NFL New Orleans Saints held their games at the Alamodome due to Hurricane Katrina. The Arena Football League San Antonio Talons used the facility from 2012 until 2014. It has hosted three Big 12 championship football games: in 1997 Nebraska defeated Texas A&M 54-15, in 1999 Nebraska defeated Texas 22-6 and in 2007 Oklahoma defeated Missouri, 38-17.

The NBA San Antonio Spurs played at the Alamodome from 1993 until 2002. The dome hosted the men's college basketball Final Four in 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2018. The Alamodome has also hosted the NCAA Women's Final Four basketball tournament in 2002 and 2010, and the 2011 NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four.

San Antonio has frequently hosted alternative professional football teams. The San Antonio Wings played in the World Football League in 1975 and played at Alamo Stadium, primarily a high school stadium built in 1940. Their head coach was Perry Moss who went on to win 86 games as a coach in the Arena Football League. The Wings went 7-6, winning all seven home games and losing all six road games, before the league folded on October 22, 1975.

The San Antonio Gunslingers played in the United States Football League in 1984 and 1985 also at Alamo Stadium. Quarterback Rick Neuheisel, who is the current coach of the Phoenix AAF team, was their most recognizable player. The under-financed Gunslingers went 7-11 in 1984 and averaged 15,444 fans. In 1985 the team missed several payrolls, but players continued playing. The Gunslingers went 5-13, the second worst record in the USFL, averaging just 11,721 fans.

After the 1985 campaign, the San Antonio Gunslingers became the only USFL team to have its franchise revoked due to all the debt they had accumulated, an action which didn't matter since the USFL went on to fold anyway.

The San Antonio Riders played in the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992. They were coached by current San Antonio AAF coach Mike Riley and played at Alamo Stadium. In 1991 the Riders went 4-6. In 1992 they were forced to play at Bobcat Stadium at Texas State University. That season they finished 7-3 but missed the playoffs.

During the 1991 season, the Riders had two recognizable players in QB Jason Garrett, the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and offensive lineman John "Bradshaw" Layfield, better known as JBL, a wrestler in the WWE.

After the 1992 season the WLAF went on hiatus and soon abandoned all its American markets.

The San Antonio Texans, an out-of-the-way Canadian Football League franchise in 1995, competed in an American South Division with four other US teams: the Baltimore Stallions, Birmingham Barracudas, Memphis Mad Dogs and Shreveport Pirates. They were previously the Sacramento Gold Miners, a franchise which relocated to San Antonio after playing the 1993 and 1994 season in California. The squad was coached by Kay Stephenson and played at the Alamodome. They finished the season 12-6 thanks to the solid play of veteran quarterback David Archer who passed for 4,471 yards with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

They defeated the Birmingham Barracudas in the Southern Semifinal 52-9. The Texans then lost to the Baltimore Stallions in the Southern Final 21-11. The Texans had respectable attendance with an average of 15,855 fans. After the 1995 season, the CFL retreated north, abandoning its American experiment, and the Texans folded.

In addition to a two-game experiment with the San Antonio Matadors of the Spring Football League in 2000, San Antonio also has seen two Arena Football League teams: the San Antonio Force and San Antonio Talons.

The Force played in the AFL in the 1992 season at the HemisFair Arena. They will be remembered as the first and only team in league history to be shutout, losing to the Orlando Predators 50-0 on June 13, 1992. They finished the season 2-8 and then promptly folded.

Arena Football returned in 2012 when the Tulsa Talons moved to San Antonio and became the San Antonio Talons. They played at the Alamodome and lasted three seasons until they folded after the 2014 season.

San Antonio completes the AAF lineup for 2019. Check out Fran Stuchbury's recaps of the other seven league cities:

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