We at Awful Announcing pride ourselves in keeping on top of the sports media and the machinations behind new rights deals. Imagine our surprise when we learned that ESPN obtained the rights to a new spring football league. You may not have heard that there was one either, but apparently the people at the Worldwide Leader knew and signed a deal with the A11FL to air two games this season.
The A11FL plans to use those games as a springboard to begin a full season of games in 2015.
What is the A11FL? It apparently stands for "All 11" meaning that all eleven players on offense would be eligible receivers. In conventional football, the offensive line is not eligible to catch a pass. In the A11FL, not only would they be eligible receivers, but the linemen would wear eligible jersey numbers signifying they can catch passes from the quarterback.
The league plans to launch with eight teams and six have already been established with familiar USFL nicknames including the L.A. Express, the New Jersey Generals and Tampa Bay Bandits.
There's a Bay Area franchise to be called the San Francisco Bay Area Sea Lions (that's a mouthful) and they've already made an offer to Tim Tebow to join the team. Should that come to fruition, one would expect ESPN to begin full-scale coverage of the A11FL.
Under the rights deal signed this week, ESPN2 is scheduled to carry the two games, one from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay on May 17 and the other at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on June 5.
The league plans to keep tickets affordable averaging around $30 and it hopes to be in the forefront of player safety.
Alternatives to the NFL have come and gone with the XFL and UFL recent examples. The most successful league was the USFL in the 1980's and it was doing well until Donald Trump convinced the league to move to the fall in hopes of merging with the NFL, a move that failed desperately especially after an anti-trust lawsuit only garnered $3 in damages.
ESPN was a partner with the USFL back then and perhaps this is an attempt to revive those days, With franchise names purchased from the USFL, maybe ESPN hopes to bring back spring football in a wave of nostalgia.
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