In light of the failure of the USFL, NFL Europe (twice), and the XFL, there's yet another plan to try professional football in the Spring. The All-American Football League will attempt to piggyback on the devotion of college football fans by tying their franchises to college football. Team rosters will be filled from nearby colleges so that fans are already familiar with their teams, and may even play in their college stadiums.
Can it work? Maybe.
Let's face it. The NFL is king, and college football might just be America's second favorite sport; it might be a tossup whether Major League Baseball or NASCAR is #3. The challenge for this new league is to somehow be able to leverage the traditions of college football, yet resist the temptation to turn it into a gimmick.
Why would it work? Look at Nebraska, where our past heroes still matter to fans. If we didn't care about them...why would we have cared if they held a second golf tournament this spring? And as we've seen with the rise of Husker baseball in recent years, Nebraska fans are always looking for a reason to wear their red t-shirts. Let's suggest you name them the "Nebraska Bugeaters" with red uniforms with a roster full of former Huskers along with a few UNO and Kearney players to pad it out. It could be huge.
Why would it fail? History is full of failed pro football leagues. Would former Huskers be willing to give up their day jobs and careers for $75,000 salaries? Could a franchise turn a profit with a 40 man roster earning $3 million?
Nebraska is on the sidelines on this one...probably for good reason. Talk from the league is that they'd pay $500,000 to the athletic department per game, and that would translate into a lot of revenue for the athletic department. But would that revenue be new, or would it be revenue diverted from other Husker athletics? (Would fans choose between a Husker baseball game or a Nebraska AAFL game?) They talk about playing these games after spring practice is over, but it might be a bigger success if they target the 8 weeks between Memorial Day and the end of July, playing in the evenings when it's (hopefully) cooler.
I've suggested that full-fledged Arena football would be a good fit for Omaha, and I still feel that way especially if they could bring in former Huskers. But it's one thing to try to draw 10,000 people to Omaha's Qwest Center and sell them beer. It's another thing entirely to draw 30,000 people to Memorial Stadium and not be able to sell alcohol. It might be a success for the first few games just for the novelty, but if the football isn't good and the Husker ties turn out to be simply a gimmick, it will wear off fast.