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The Bigger, Better af2

by Mike Vergane
October 23, 2000 - arenafootball2 (af2)

The Bigger, Better af2

by Mike Vergane

It's official! The af2 has finally bought out the Indoor Football League and is in the process of absorbing its teams.

For those of you IFL fans who are going to be supporting an af2 team in your town - welcome! You're going to love it.

After listening to the teleconference on the afternoon of October 20th, a few things struck me while I jotted down notes.

One thing was the amount of columnists and sports anchors representing the towns of former IFL franchises. Pretty much every town was heard from.

The other thing that struck me was the thoroughness in which the AFL and af2 has put into this purchase. Outside of Topeka, no franchise has been officially eliminated from expansion into the af2. In fact, af2 commisioner Mary Ellen Garling stated that there is no 'ceiling' in how many teams can be absorbed into the league. If the ownership is right - they're in. However, she emphasized that she does not want to put any ownership group into a position where they are bound to fail.

So what have we learned and what does all of this mean?

According to Garling, the league will be divided into regions - the Southeast, the Midcentral and the Rocky Mountain regions.

Garling emphasized the need for lowering traveling costs. More bus trips and less plane trips.

Last year, the Southeastern teams had that luxury. But teams like Quad City, Arkansas and Tulsa frequently found themselves flying out to Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.

Now with more regionalized play, these match-ups will probably not occur during the regular season. Garling even mentioned the possibility of the 'Rocky Mountain' teams playing solely amongst themselves.

But what about the playoffs?

Nothing was officially mentioned, but this struck me.

Last year, the af2 owners changed the playoff format halfway through the season because they felt eight teams should qualify instead of four. If 8 of 15 teams should make the playoffs, how many are going to qualify if there are as many as 30 teams in 2001?

The Arena Cup game is televised by TNN and that date is set for the week before the AFL championship game. That means any additional weeks to the season would have to be front-loaded into March. And when you schedule in March you run into problems with available dates in the arenas.

It is true that by having a league with an even number of teams that you will save a week by eliminating 'bye weeks'. But, last year the af2 crammed an extra round of playoffs in by forcing teams to play every four days. So, that saved 'bye week' is canceled out by playing post-season games once a week.

So it appears that if the league wants to continue with a 16 game season, (and many teams have already begun selling season ticket packages based on that) the season will have to start in March.

The last thing that struck me was something that Mary Ellen Garling was

asked about. A question came up about whether IFL coaches were guaranteed jobs with their respective squads next season. Her answer was that every coach, player and front office worker has the 'opportunity' to be a part of the af2.

In other words, it is every man for himself. Everyone is a free agent.

So, all past records and reputations of IFL teams are out the window. They should be anyway, specifically because the Arena game is different from the 'indoor' game. Not all of the top IFL players can (or maybe even want to) play on both sides of the ball.

During the next several weeks all of the remaining questions will be answered. Commisioner Garling said that a 2001 schedule will be announced by Thanksgiving, so answers should be coming quickly.

Welcome aboard everyone! 2001 should be a blast!

Mike Vergane writes his af2 column on a weekly basis during the season. He has covered college football for local and national radio since 1995.

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