Mountain West Football: Why The Alliance Of American Football Is Worth Your Time
The new Alliance of American Football has enough familiar faces from the conference’s past to be worth your time.
Your guide to more football.
The college football season has been over for nearly a month now and Super Bowl LIII was… well, the less said, the better. Normally, this would be the grimmest time of year for a football enthusiast, but not anymore.
The Alliance of American Football, the brainchild of Bill Polian and Charlie Ebersol, kicks off its inaugural campaign this Saturday and, if you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a surprising amount of credibility behind the new league: You’ll be able to find two games per weekend on the NFL Network, while other broadcasts will be spread out between CBS and CBS Sports Network, TNT, and Bleacher Report Live.
When NFL Draft coverage just isn’t enough and March Madness wraps up this spring, live action gameplay will carry football enthusiasts from now until mid-April.
Why should you care, though? If you’re a Mountain West football fan, the AAF will feature plenty of familiar faces and, in some cases, will play their home games in MWC-friendly markets. Here’s what you need to know:
Every Mountain West team but one is represented in the AAF.
The only Mountain West team without a player on any of the AAF’s eight rosters is Air Force, so first and foremost there’s at least a little something for just about every rooting interest. Better yet, the wealth is spread throughout the majority of the new league: Only the Birmingham Iron and Orlando Apollos are without at least one former MWC athlete.
If you’re a Fresno State fan, for instance, you might want to tune in to see what kind of role Derron Smith plays for the San Antonio Commanders. Similarly, former Hawaii linebacker Benetton Fonua is the lone conference representative on the Memphis Express.
Every AAF team has a regional flavor, and some are very distinctly Mountain West.
To some extent, each team’s roster is a reflection of the region in which it plays. This has the effect of bringing together bitter Mountain West rivalries with a common rooting interest.
The Salt Lake Stallions, for instance, have players from five different Mountain division teams, most notably former Colorado State center Jake Bennett. The Arizona Hotshots have five players from Nevada and New Mexico, as well, like Jhurrell Pressley and Rykeem Yates.
However, no AAF squad is as Mountain West-friendly as the new team in San Diego. The Fleet, led by head coach Mike Martz, have a distinctly San Diego flavor through and through, both on the roster and among the coaching staff. Wide receivers coach Az-Zahir Hakim went to San Diego State and cornerbacks coach Eric Allen is a San Diego native, and the roster hosts a whopping seven former Aztecs.
Altogether, the San Diego Fleet have 14 former Mountain West athletes on the roster, far and away the most in the AAF. Even though local favorites like Alex Barrett and Kameron Kelly might curry the most immediate favor, others like former San Jose State linebacker Frank Ginda and Hawaii defensive end Meffy Koloamatangi will probably have plenty of opportunity to make an impact, as well.
The AAF might just be the land of football opportunity.
If you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed that this has already presented itself in a few unique ways: Kevin Coyle, the Atlanta head coach, ascended to the position following Brad Childress’s abrupt departure in January, making Michael Vick — yes, the former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback — the team’s offensive coordinator.
The AAF also features a few female position coaches, as well, like Arizona wide receivers coach Jennifer King, who will have an active hand in working alongside former New Mexico Lobo Marquis Bundy. CBS Sports Network also broadcast the league’s quarterback draft, where familiar names like Aaron Murray, Logan Woodside and Zach Mettenberger had their landing spots determined.
Furthermore, the league’s salary structure is egalitarian. Everyone from the starting quarterback to the backup defensive lineman makes $250,000, but there are opportunities for players to earn bonuses with on- and off-field performance. And with coaching luminaries like Martz, Steve Spurrier and Dennis Erickson in the mix, you might see some innovations unfold on the gridiron.
That innovation extends to some new wrinkles meant to speed up the pace of the game. As CBS Sports’s Ben Kercheval notes, the AAF’s overall goal is to fit a game into a two-and-a-half-hour window. The biggest changes?
- No kickoffs ever; drives will begin at a team’s own 25-yard line, and onside kicks will be a 4th-and-10 situation at the 35.
- Ties are possible, but overtime is dictated by what each team can do while starting at the opponent’s 10-yard line.
- Two-point conversations are mandatory.
- The play clock has been shortened to 35 seconds.
- TV timeouts have been abolished.
The AAF uniforms are pretty clean, actually.
We’ll leave it to others (like our friends at Forgotten5) to rank the AAF’s get-ups but, at least in this author’s opinion, there isn’t a bad look in the whole bunch.
Tickets are reasonably priced.
Whether you see an AAF game like minor league baseball or a Treat Yo Self day out, chances are you can score some seats at a price point that fits your budget. Tickets for San Diego’s home opener against Atlanta on February 17, for example, start at $20 each, and you can catch Salt Lake hosting Arizona on the 23rd for just $19.