AF2

Last updated
AF2
Sport Arena football
Founded1999
Founder Arena Football League
Inaugural season 2000
Ceased 2009
CEO Jerry Kurz
No. of teams25
CountryUnited States
Last
champion(s)
Spokane Shock
Most titles(tie) Quad City Steamwheelers, Tulsa Talons & Spokane Shock (2)

The AF2 (often styled as af2, and short for arenafootball2) was the Arena Football League's developmental league; it was founded in 1999 and played its first season in 2000. Like its parent AFL, the AF2 played using the same arena football rules and style of play. League seasons ran from April through July with the postseason and ArenaCup championship in August. The AF2 continued to operate while the AFL suspended operations for its 2009 season. The league was effectively disbanded in September 2009 when no team committed to playing in 2010, but several of the stronger franchises transferred into the reconstituted AFL. [1]

Contents

Like most other minor sports leagues, the AF2 existed to develop football players and also to help players adapt to the style and pace of arena football. In addition, the AF2 was similar to other minor leagues because AF2 teams played in smaller cities and smaller venues. While the AFL was played in cities like Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Chicago, the AF2 fielded teams in cities which are part of metropolitan statistical areas ranging in size from Milwaukee (with 1,739,497 residents) to Albany, Georgia (with 164,000 residents). Also in common with other minor professional sports leagues, players also earned less than in the AFL, with each player making $200-$500 per game, with a minimum $50 victory bonus. [2] [3] [4] [5]

History

The AF2 was founded in 1999 by the Arena Football League in an attempt to bring the game to mid-sized markets following the success of AFL on the national level. [6] The AF2 was not intended to be a farm system for the AFL like the American Hockey League and Minor League Baseball are to the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, respectively. The league was instead designed as a league that would develop the players in the interest of the higher league as a whole. The lack of AFL–AF2 team affiliations would prevent the AFL from "stashing" players in the lower league for later use. Players in the AF2 were signed to one-year contracts, after the expiration of which they essentially became free agents to sign with whichever league and team they would prefer. The 16-week contracts with the individual AF2 teams also prevented players from leaving for the parent league mid-season; this preserved the quality of play in the lower league and did not destroy team dynamics with players coming and going throughout the season as they do in the NHL and MLB. [7] [8]

The foundation of the AF2 was a response to the launch of several small-market indoor football leagues in the mid-to-late 1990s, including the Professional Indoor Football League, Indoor Professional Football League, and Indoor Football League. [9] Each of these leagues, though they would eventually fold, managed to last for multiple seasons, proving that the game had some traction in the smaller cities. With Jim Foster's patent on arena football, the AF2 had the advantage of being the same game as was being seen on the national level with the use of the rebound nets. [6] Working on a smaller scale, the AF2 would try to capitalize on local and regional rivalries. [10]

The Xtreme Football League was another upstart league trying to capitalize on the arena football phenomenon. Founded in Birmingham, Alabama, with the intent to begin play in 2000, this XFL (which was not related to the WWE-backed outdoor league) used East Coast Hockey League ownership to keep team costs low while providing established ownership and arenas for play. The cities that were to take part in the Xtreme Football League were: Birmingham, Alabama (Birmingham Steeldogs), Greenville, South Carolina (Carolina Rhinos), Huntsville, Alabama (Tennessee Valley Vipers), Jacksonville, Florida (Jacksonville Tomcats), Norfolk, Virginia (Norfolk Nighthawks), Pensacola, Florida (Pensacola Barracudas), Richmond, Virginia (Richmond Speed), Roanoke, Virginia (Roanoke Steam), and Tallahassee, Florida (Tallahassee Thunder). Although a logo was developed and venues had begun to be lined up, the league and its nine teams were purchased by the AF2 on July 29, 1999, and the Xtreme Football League never played a single game. [6]

The AF2 finally took the field in March 2000 in a game between the Birmingham Steeldogs and Tennessee Valley Vipers (two of the acquired XFL teams). Fifteen teams were fielded in 2000 with the rights for several more cities quickly secured. The Orlando Predators also purchased the competitor Indoor Football League; several teams would be absorbed into the AF2 for the 2001 season. [6]

The first season concluded with over 868,000 people attending AF2 games, averaging over 7,200 per game; several teams ended with average attendances over 10,000 fans. [11] In addition over 9,200 fans attended ArenaCup I between the Tennessee Valley Vipers and Quad City Steamwheelers in Moline, Illinois. [12] Deemed a success, the league returned for a second season and returned all 15 original teams as well as 13 expansion teams. The Kansas Koyotes has been with the Champions Professional Indoor Football League at former arenafootball2 scale.

Dissolution

For legal purposes, the league was effectively dissolved on September 8, 2009 when no team submitted the paperwork to return in 2010. Since the original AFL had suspended 2009 operations and later suspended all operations indefinitely after declaring bankruptcy, the minority owners (as the AFL owned 50.1%) of AF2 were wary of being owned by and paying money owed to the bankrupt league's creditors. [1]

The remaining teams and Board of Directors of AF2, and some former members of the AFL joined together to create a new league, originally called "Arena Football One", which was announced at a press conference on September 28, 2009. Legally, Arena Football One, now doing business as the Arena Football League, is an entity independent of the original Arena Football League and AF2 and is made up of former AFL and AF2 teams with several new (expansion) teams and one team from another league. [13] After acquiring the assets of the former Arena Football League in a bankruptcy court sale, the new entity formally became the "new" Arena Football League. Unlike the previous Arena Football League and AF2, the new AFL was an entity-model league in which the league owns the individual teams and hires local management groups to operate them, rather than the traditional North American sports league model where each team is a separate business and the league is a non-profit association formed and controlled by the various team owners in order to co-ordinate and govern operations.

Rumors of a return

There had been rumors of a possible return of AF2, after Arena Football League commissioner Jerry Kurz had stated a return of the league for 2013, but that did not materialize. [14] [15]

ArenaCup

The ArenaCup was the AF2's championship game, held annually in August. For the league's first five years, it was held at the home arena of the higher-seeded remaining team. However, as the old AFL has changed, the AF2 also changed. In the same year that ArenaBowl XIX was played at a neutral site in Las Vegas, ArenaCup VI was the first AF2 championship to be played at a neutral site in Bossier City, Louisiana. The practice continued the following year when ArenaCup VII was played in Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan; [16] the title game returned to Bossier City in ArenaCup VIII. Citing lower attendances at the neutral site ArenaCup games, the league returned to the original arena arrangement for the 2008 season. [17]

With the exception of ArenaCup V, all AF2 championships were televised either nationally or locally. The inaugural and second ArenaCups were broadcast on TNN Motor Sports/TNN Sports, which carried AFL games on Sunday afternoons at the time. However, when the AFL broadcast rights were purchased by NBC, the ArenaCup national telecast was lost. The 2002 ArenaCup was televised by the Vision Network, and ArenaCup IV was televised by KWHB, a local station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After having no television coverage in 2004, the national telecasts returned to the airwaves with Fox Sports Net in 2005 and Comcast Sports Net in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

ArenaCup IX, as well as the season in its entirety, was broadcast online via NiFTy TV. [18]

Teams

Af2-USA-states.png

The league's teams were divided into two conferences, the American and National Conferences. The conferences were further subdivided into three divisions each. Each division represented a region of the country in which teams played. Unlike most sports leagues, the alignment of teams into divisions was not even; in 2009, the Central division featured three teams while the West featured five teams. Teams were placed in divisions based on geographic rivalries to reduce travel costs as teams played division opponents more often than non-divisional opponents. Alignment was subject to change each year as new teams joined the league and others dropped out.

Because of legal issues regarding the bankruptcy and subsequent dissolution of the original Arena Football League, no team committed to continue with arenafootball2 operations. This list is the final alignment of AF2 at the end of the 2009 season.

DivisionTeamCityArenaFoundedFirst AF2 season
American Conference
East Albany Firebirds Albany, New York Times Union Center 20012002
Mahoning Valley Thunder Youngstown, Ohio Covelli Centre 20062007
Manchester Wolves Manchester, New Hampshire Verizon Wireless Arena 20012002
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Wachovia Arena 20012002
Midwest Green Bay Blizzard Green Bay, Wisconsin Resch Center 20022003
Iowa Barnstormers Des Moines, Iowa Wells Fargo Arena 20002001
Milwaukee Iron Milwaukee Bradley Center 20082009
Peoria Pirates Peoria, Illinois Peoria Civic Center 19982001
Quad City Steamwheelers Moline, Illinois iWireless Center 19992000
South Florida Firecats Estero, Florida Germain Arena 20002001
Kentucky Horsemen Lexington, Kentucky Rupp Arena 20022008
South Georgia Wildcats Albany, Georgia Albany Civic Center 20012002
Tennessee Valley Vipers Huntsville, Alabama Von Braun Center 19992000
National Conference
Central Amarillo Dusters Amarillo, Texas Amarillo Civic Center 20032005
Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz Oklahoma City Ford Center 20032004
Tulsa Talons Tulsa, Oklahoma BOK Center 19992000
Southwest Arkansas Twisters North Little Rock, Arkansas Verizon Arena 19992000
Bossier–Shreveport Battle Wings Bossier City, Louisiana CenturyTel Center 20002001
Corpus Christi Sharks Corpus Christi, Texas American Bank Center 20062007
Rio Grande Valley Dorados Hidalgo, Texas Dodge Arena 20032004
West Boise Burn Boise, Idaho Qwest Arena 20062007
Central Valley Coyotes Fresno, California Selland Arena 20012002
Spokane Shock Spokane, Washington Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena 20052006
Stockton Lightning Stockton, California Stockton Arena 20052006
Tri-Cities Fever Kennewick, Washington Toyota Center 20042007

League expansion

In a June 2003 interview with Sports Illustrated , AFL commissioner David Baker briefly mentioned the AF2, saying how one day he envisioned the league growing to 100 teams. The AF2 started off with 15 teams in 2000, then expanded to 28 teams in 2001, and finally to 34 in 2002. The number of teams the league fielded dropped every year from there on after, until the 2006 season; 27 teams were fielded in 2003, 25 in 2004, and 20 in 2005. Finally, in 2006, the AF2 saw its first expansion in four years, fielding 23 teams, and continued that into 2007 with 30 teams.

The drop in teams between 2002 and 2006 could be partially attributed to the league expanding too rapidly in its first three seasons. Many teams were financially unstable and folded. This could have been at least in large measure due to higher expenses, even compared to those of similar leagues. Franchise fees in the league ranged from $600,000 to $1 million. [19] Historically, massive sports league expansions have had little success, either in indoor football or other sports. For instance, the National Indoor Football League, a rival indoor league, saw large numbers of expansion teams after beginning play in 2001 but many struggled financially and played only briefly, incurring considerable financial losses before folding. In more recent years, the American Basketball Association has exhibited the same situation to an even greater degree.

Nine new expansion teams were approved for 2007 in the AF2: the Boise Burn, the Cincinnati Jungle Kats, the Fort Wayne Fusion, the Laredo Lobos, the Lubbock Renegades, the Mahoning Valley Thunder, the Texas Copperheads, the Tri-Cities Fever, and the Corpus Christi Sharks. The Texas, Laredo, and Tri-Cities teams moved to the AF2 from other indoor football leagues. For the 2007 season, the league fielded 30 teams. After the 2007 season, three of those teams folded, the Fort Wayne Fusion, the Cincinnati Jungle Kats, and the Laredo Lobos. The Everett Hawks, Alabama Steeldogs, and the Bakersfield Blitz also ceased operations.

For 2008, the league fielded one team fewer, at 29. Two teams were reactivated: the Iowa Barnstormers and the Peoria Pirates, and the league admitted three new teams that were transferring from other leagues. The Lexington Horsemen came from UIF; the Daytona Beach ThunderBirds, from the WIFL, and the Austin Wranglers moved down from the AFL. After the season, Austin and Daytona Beach folded, along with Louisville, Lubbock, and Texas. The league was expected to expand to Toledo, Ohio and Worcester, Massachusetts by 2011. The Champions Professional Indoor Football League is with AF2.

Continuing teams

When AF2 folded, some teams joined the AF2 Board of Directors in forming the new "Arena Football 1" that soon became the new Arena Football League. Iowa, Milwaukee, Tennessee Valley (which changed its name to Alabama to reflect the state, rather than the region), Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Bossier-Shreveport, and Spokane all moved to the new AFL to join "old" AFL teams Arizona, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Cleveland, along with expansion teams in Dallas and Jacksonville, and the American Indoor Football team in Utah that had also been in the old AFL. Kentucky, Tri-Cities, and Arkansas also committed to the new league, but Kentucky folded, and Tri-Cities and Arkansas followed Green Bay and Amarillo to the Indoor Football League. Albany did not play in 2010 while seeking an expansion into the "new" AFL in 2011, along with a planned addition in Toledo.

By the conclusion of the 2015 AFL Season, none of the seven AF2 franchises that moved into the AFL remained in the league. The Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz ceased operations after the 2010 season. In the 2011 season, the Alabama Vipers relocated to suburban Atlanta and assumed the identity and history of the former Georgia Force before folding after the 2012 season, while the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings moved to New Orleans and became a continuation of the VooDoo and then ceased operations after the 2015 season. [20] The Milwaukee Iron rebranded itself in 2011 as the Mustangs, adopting the name of a previous Milwaukee team. Tulsa relocated to San Antonio before the start of the 2012 season, retaining the Talons' name and history and folded after the 2014 season. Milwaukee suspended operations for the 2013 season, and the team relocated to Portland, Oregon for the 2014 season, becoming the Portland Thunder, later renamed the Steel before ultimately folding after the 2016 AFL season. [21] After the 2014 AFL season, the Iowa Barnstormers changed leagues from the AFL to the Indoor Football League. After the conclusion of the 2015 season, the last AF2 team remaining in the AFL, the Spokane Shock, joined the Barnstormers in the IFL as the Spokane Empire, and then also folded in 2017.

After the conclusion of the 2019 AFL season, the Arena Football League filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and ceased operations in November 2019. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Arena Football League Professional indoor American football league

The Arena Football League (AFL) was a professional indoor American football league in the United States. It was founded in 1987, making it the third longest-running professional football league in North America after the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the National Football League (NFL) until the AFL closed in 2019. The AFL played a proprietary code known as arena football, a form of indoor American football played on a 66-by-28 yard field, with rules encouraging offensive performance, resulting in a faster-paced and higher-scoring game. The sport was invented in the early 1980s and patented by Jim Foster, a former executive of the United States Football League (USFL) and the NFL. Each of the league's 32 seasons culminated in the ArenaBowl, with the winner being crowned the league's champion for that season.

New York Dragons Arena football team

The New York Dragons were a professional arena football team based in the New York metropolitan area. The Dragons participated in the Arena Football League's (AFL) National Conference as a member of the Eastern Division. The team was founded in 1995 as the original iteration of the Iowa Barnstormers, and relocated to New York in 2001. They played in New York until 2008, when the league folded. They played in the Eastern Division of the National Conference, and played their home games at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Their last coach was Weylan Harding.

New Orleans VooDoo Arena football team

The New Orleans VooDoo were a professional arena football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The VooDoo were a member of the East Division of the American Conference of the Arena Football League (AFL). They played their home games in Smoothie King Center. The VooDoo were unrelated to an earlier AFL team, the New Orleans Night, who had competed in the 1991 and 1992 AFL seasons in the Louisiana Superdome.

James Foster is the founder and first commissioner of the Arena Football League (AFL). He is also a former National Football League (NFL) and United States Football League (USFL) executive and was later the principal owner of both the Iowa Barnstormers and the AF2's Quad City Steamwheelers.

Indoor American football

Indoor American football is a variation of gridiron football played at ice hockey-sized indoor arenas. While varying in details from league to league, the rules of indoor football are designed to allow for play in a smaller arena. It is distinct from traditional American or Canadian football played in larger domed or open-air stadiums, although several early college football games contested on full-sized or nearly full-sized fields at Chicago Coliseum (1890s) and Atlantic City Convention Center helped to show that football could be played as an indoor game.

Alabama Steeldogs Arena football team

The Alabama Steeldogs, originally known as the Birmingham Steeldogs, were incorporated in 2000 as one of the charter teams in the AF2, the developmental league of the Arena Football League. Entering their eighth season as of 2007, they were the longest running of many professional football franchises in the city of Birmingham. Management announced that it would not field a team in 2008 but had hopes of returning in 2009. But the team's front office has since been dissolved, and with no announcements of further plans, the team is defunct.

Alabama Vipers Arena football team

The Alabama Vipers were a professional arena football team, that played in the Arena Football League. For most of their history, the Vipers played as the Tennessee Valley Vipers in the now-defunct af2, the minor league for the original Arena Football League, where they won ArenaCup IX in 2008. They played their home games at the Von Braun Center. They were coached by Dean Cokinos.

The Amarillo Venom are a professional indoor football team in the Champions Indoor Football league. They play their home games at the Amarillo Civic Center. The Venom began play in 2004 as the Amarillo Dusters, a charter member of the Intense Football League, a small indoor football league based in Texas. They won the championship in their first and only season with the Intense Football League.

Iowa Barnstormers Arena football team

The Iowa Barnstormers are a professional indoor football team based in Des Moines, Iowa. They are currently members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). They play their home games at Wells Fargo Arena, known in indoor football circles as "The Well".

The Spokane Shock are a professional indoor American football team based in Spokane, Washington, playing their home games at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. The team was initially a member of arenafootball2 (af2), the Shock won division titles in all four seasons and ArenaCups in 2006 and 2009 before they joined the Arena Football League (AFL) in its 2010 relaunch. The team advanced to the playoffs three times after joining the AFL, winning ArenaBowl XXIII in their first season, making them the only arena football franchise to win both the ArenaCup and the ArenaBowl.

The Stockton Lightning were a professional arena football team based in Stockton, California. They were members of the Western Division of the National Conference of the arenafootball2 (af2). The Lightning joined af2 2006 as an expansion team. They played their home games at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California and were coached by Chad Carlson. The Stockton Lightning were owned by Michael Reinsdorf.

The Jacksonville Tomcats were an arena football team based in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S. They were an inaugural franchise in af2, the developmental league of the Arena Football League (AFL), and played for three seasons, from 2000 to 2002. They played their home games at Jacksonville Coliseum.

The Peoria Pirates were a professional arena football team that last played in AF2, the minor league to the Arena Football League (AFL). They played their home games at Carver Arena, part of the Peoria Civic Center in Illinois, and were coached by Mike Hohensee and Bruce Cowdrey. The Pirates originally began play as a charter member of the original Indoor Football League in 1999.

The East Division was a division of the Arena Football League's American Conference. It was first formed in 1995 as part of the National Conference when expansion led to the creation of divisions.

Les Moss is an American football coach and head coach of the Iowa Barnstormers of the Indoor Football League (IFL) since 2021. Previously, he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League (AFL) from 2010 to 2016 and the assistant head coach of the Albany Empire of the AFL from 2018 to 2019. He is the son of former NFL, AFL, CFL and NCAA head football coach Perry Moss, who is enshrined in the AFL Hall of Fame.

The 2015 Arena Football League season was the 28th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 27, 2015 and ended on August 8, 2015.

The Arena Football Hall of Fame is the official Hall of Fame of the Arena Football League (AFL). The inaugural class was announced in 1998 and the Hall was not formally organized until 2011. Prior to 2011, there were four classes: 1998–2000 and then another in 2002. The Arena Football Hall of Fame is the highest honor for players, coaches, and contributors involved in the AFL. The voting process consists of fans and current Hall of Fame members voting on the finalists. The finalists are selected by the League Office in which they collect ballots from the Arena Football Hall of Fame Advisory Board, a group which consisted of former players, executives, journalists and media personnel with a long-time involvement in the league. The league began to decline in 2015, so no Hall of Fame announcements have been made since this year. The league folded for a second time in 2019. After the league's second closure, ArenaFan, a long-running fan site, announced it had taken over operations of the Arena Football Hall of Fame.

References

  1. 1 2 Johnson, Dan (September 9, 2009). "Barnstormers hope to land in top tier of redefined league". Des Moines Register. Retrieved September 29, 2009.[ dead link ]
  2. "They play arena football for love, not money".
  3. "AFL closure won't affect Pirates, af2".
  4. "ArenaFan Originals — Interview with Head Coach Adam Shackleford — ArenaFan.com". arenafan.com. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  5. "Arena lands off-the-wall bathroom". 2001-07-25.[ permanent dead link ]
  6. 1 2 3 4 "A Brief History of Arena and Indoor Football".
  7. "The Jim Foster Interview Part 1". 2000-05-08.
  8. "The Jim Foster Interview Part 2". 2000-05-14.
  9. Mike Vergane (October 23, 2000). "The Bigger, Better af2". www.oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  10. "AF2 Announces Kickoff 2000". 2000-01-11.
  11. "2000 af2 attendance chart".
  12. "ArenaCup History".
  13. "Arena Football 1 to launch in 2010". September 28, 2009. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  14. AF2 or something, ArenaFan Message Board, May 25, 2012
  15. af2 to return in 2013? Chris Menn, bostonafl.blogpost.com, May 26, 2012
  16. "2006 ArenaCup to be played in Puerto Rico". AF2. 2006-07-21. Retrieved 2007-03-26.[ permanent dead link ]
  17. "2008 ArenaCup returns to highest seed format". AF2. 2008-03-20. Retrieved 2008-03-20.[ permanent dead link ]
  18. "arenafootball2 Fans Can Watch Their Home Team Score With NFT's Online Broadcasting Technology" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine , NiFTy Online Television , 2008-03-25.
  19. Lowe, Mike (2006-09-01). "Arena football discussed". Portland Press Herald . Archived from the original on 10 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
  20. "VooDoo, Outlaws Cease Operations". www.arenafootballleague.com. Arena Football League. August 9, 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-08-11. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  21. "Arena Football to Return to Portland in 2014". Arena Football League. Archived from the original on 2013-10-19. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  22. Gleeson, Scott (November 27, 2019). "Arena Football League files for bankruptcy, ceases all operations". USA Today. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
21. Arsenal football league news