The Alliance of American Football halted operations this week, meaning the Orlando Apollos brief glory run through the league officially came to an end. The 7-1 Apollos had a record two games better than any other in the eight-team AAF, they had a state legend coaching the team in Steve Spurrier and played fairly good football over the two months they were around.
FanDuel has even declared Orlando the champions of the Alliance and they are paying out bettors accordingly.
Despite all the fun that was had out at Spectrum Stadium, the Apollos now sit on the scrapheap that is professional football in Orlando. They have joined all the colorful team names of yesteryear that include Panthers, Thunder, Renegades, Rage, and Tuskers.
Even, the Orlando Predators, once a stalwart franchise in this town had gone the way of the history books before recently being revived by one of the team's former legends, Kenny McEntyre, in a totally different league, the National Arena League.
It certainly has been difficult to get a team to stick around, but that has never been Orlando's fault. All of those past franchises had solid support and performed competently on the field.
Each one of them, however, went away due to some internal strife at the league level. Much like the AAF's well-documented financial struggles, all of the past organizations had some issue with cash flow that eventually doomed them.
With that history in mind, perhaps I am an eternal optimist at best and a fool at worst, but I do believe that one day there will be a group that figures out how to build a spring football league that sticks around. When they do, there is no reason to doubt that Orlando will be front and center to that success.
Orlando is the 18th largest media market in the country, which also makes us the largest city without an NFL team. The location smackdab in a football-crazed state and our past support of these teams makes The City Beautiful a must for any future organization looking to set up shop.
While there is typically a gap between efforts to start a secondary football league, the wait will not be long this time around. WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon are rebooting one of his greatest personal failures next year, the XFL.
This time, the billionaire is putting his money where his legendary boastful mouth is, selling $272 million worth of WWE stock last week to put in the XFL's coffers. While you may be already skeptical, at least Vince does not have to go around begging for money from billionaires, he already is one.
Unfortunately, McMahon and the XFL have announced the eight cities that will open the 2020 season. Orlando is not on the list, but perhaps there is some room to politick.
After all, the Rage were one of the signature teams during the first go-around of the XFL and the WWE has had a good relationship with the city, hosting WrestleMania at Camping World Stadium before and basing their WWE Performance Center here. I have even been told that McMahon was looking to put a team at Camping World, but decided to go elsewhere when the Apollos beat them to town.
Spurrier would be a plug-and-play hire for the XFL and he already has a staff in place that could take over the club as well as relationships with players who may fill out the roster. It is a well-oil machine that already has proven to draw fans and put a winning product together.
Fans may have "minor league" football fatigue after being jilted this week by the Alliance, but that will quickly wear off and we will all be looking for some football to tide us over till the college game and NFL kick off in the fall. Instead of throwing a pity party, let's rally together, stuff the email inboxes, online contact forms and physical mailboxes of the WWE, and make the case for the XFL to come to Orlando!
This may just be the league that finally figures it out.
Other Orlando Sports Headlines for the Week
- The Orlando Magic are coming down the home stretch, with a relatively easy schedule to compete with, but they still some need to make up ground on their competitors. As I write this, the Magic are taking on the woeful New York Knicks at home, then play the Atlanta Hawks Friday and end things on the road at the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets. A 3-1 finish is likely needed, but that would get Orlando to 41-41 and give them their first postseason appearance since 2012. What progress indeed!
- There is not much optimism surrounding Orlando City Soccer, but I am still going to hold tight in a wait and see pattern. Orlando controlled much of the match Sunday against one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, D.C. United, and scored the first goal that side had allowed all year. They still came up on the losing end and that happens in soccer, particularly with all the officiating controversy surrounding the match. Point being, at 1-2-2, we just have not seen enough of this club yet and need more of a sample size before sticking a fork in things.
- While there were rumors last week that Johnny Dawkins may be leaving UCF to take the Vanderbilt basketball job, it looks that he is staying with the Knights for the time being. After guiding the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 and almost upsetting top-ranked Duke, this is certainly a good development. Dawkins may never be able to develop a team that perennially participates in March Madness, but that is not necessarily his fault or a bad thing. I compared him this week to UCF basketball's version of George O'Leary, a coach who gives the program an identity, wins more than any of his predecessors and sets the stage for the next steps of growth. I think that is something all Knights fans should sign up for.
Photo via @aafAPOLLOS on Twitter