The Alliance of American Football is the latest league hoping to get spring football to catch on in the United States. They made the obvious choice of announcing Orlando as their first team over the weekend and college football legend Steve Spurrier as the coach of that squad.
The AAF's selection of Orlando as the location of the first franchise is an homage to the city's history as a great minor league sports town. Outdoor football in various forms has always landed in the City Beautiful as a success.
Pro football in Orlando had its berth in the 1960s with Orlando Panthers, who won back-to-back Continental Football League titles before the league folded. The barely-remembered Florida Blazers also played in the only championship game ever held by the World Football League in 1974.
The USFL made their big push for football relevancy in the 1980s and the Orlando Renegades drew big crowds led by head coach Lee Corso at the then-Florida Citrus Bowl. The World League of American Football's Orlando Thunder and the XFL's Orlando Rage later followed with great support.
The Florida Tuskers from the United Football League was the latest upstart to give it a go and they had great success under Orlando sports legend and current Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. This history shows that even though these various leagues have had short shelf lives, the popularity of football in Orlando has never waned.
Talking about the litany of outdoor football teams that have come through town does not even account for the minor league success of other teams in Orlando, like the Orlando Predators and Orlando Solar Bears. Even Orlando City Soccer would not be the giant it is today if not for its record-breaking start in the third division of American soccer as a USL Pro franchise.
UF Coach Steve Spurrier Coach For New Orlando Pro Football Team
What do all these minor league success stories mean for the AAF in Orlando? It indicates that no matter the relative health of the league as a whole, they will still be able to bank on franchise #1 holding up their end of the bargain.
The Alliance gets the benefit of a successful minor league past coupled with Orlando's emerging major city status. This is no longer the little city that could, but it is the largest market in the country without an NFL team.
That means more people with more money are in town to spend money on tickets, concessions, and souvenirs that at any other time. Adding a coach like Spurrier to the initial unveiling only boosts those efforts.
The "Head Ball Coach" gives the franchise extra panache right from the jump, like Corso and Gruden did before him for their teams. Spurrier has even hinted at luring fellow Florida Gators icon Tim Tebow away from baseball to sling the rock for this team.
That 1-2 punch could cement the AAF's effort as the best pro football venture yet in Orlando.
How long the Alliance of American Football sticks around will ultimately not be decided by what happens in this city, but with the league itself. Most people believe that there is room for more football as evidenced by all these now-defunct leagues, but what is the right formula?
League founder Charlie Ebersol has done his due diligence, brought in respected football names to guide the league's growth and already inked a television deal CBS, but only time will tell if he can succeed where others have failed. Despite the long odds, it should be another fun pigskin run in Orlando while it lasts.