The league has some interesting ideas as well, which include creating partnerships with NCAA Division I Football schools to host games. The league will be led by former NCAA President Cedric Dempsey.
We had the chance to speak to Drametrice Smith, who is expected to play in the league when it kicks off in 2008. Smith picked up a number of academic awards during his college career and graduated with a degree in communications in 2006. He's currently doing PR work for the league and judging by his exclamation marks at the end of many of his answers, he's ready for this league to get rolling.
So let's get on with the interview. Questions in bold, answers in italics.
What is the overall vision of the league and what is the league trying to accomplish?
To put quality athletes on the field as well as fill the stadium seats. It's only two things that matter Athletes and Fans! Vision, is to improve grad rates throughout the country.
Many players who plan on playing in the NFL leave school in the spring to concentrate on preparing for the NFL combine, workouts, and the draft. Do you think the AAFL can actually change this pattern so more players graduate?
That’s the ultimate goal of this league is to give a guy a chance to focus on school first. Education is vital once you have a degree no one can take your education from you.
Under the current model, the league has signed an agreement with the
Right now, 8 teams hopefully more. Most definitely the league is going to expand, teams are already just waiting to see how the first season kicks off. Then they will jump on the band wagon.
What other schools are being targeted by the league as host sites?
Are you concerned that with the top college players going into the NFL, that there might be a lack of talent in the AAFL?
No, that’s a misconception its great quality athletes all across the country. Not, everyone ends up in the NFL on there first go around, some athletes are late bloomers. The AAFL may end up just being a productive feeder for the NFL in the near future.
Similarly, are you concerned that the AAFL may lose its top players to the NFL?
That’s great if we lose top players to the NFL that means the NFL supports the AAFL therefore the league will be around for a while. This opens the door for the next graduate to get an opportunity to go out and show cases their talent.
The league almost seems to be the equivalent of a minor league version of the NFL. Would that be a fair assessment?
No, that’s not a fair assessment minor league teams don’t use great facilities and minor leagues don’t have the financial background this league has in place.
One of the league’s key concepts is to have players playing on teams that match up with the school or region that they played college ball at. That way the fan base is already familiar with the players. How do you think fans will take to players that aren’t from their particular region, seeing as there will likely be a fair number of these players?
If an athlete goes out and makes a difference on the field, where he came from will just be history. The fans maybe upset in the beginning, once the season gets rolling and each state is represented right then the country will fall in love with the AAFL.
According to the web site, the colors of the state university school will be utilized for teams, as well as the band and cheerleaders when and where possible. Is there a danger that the league is trying duplicate the college experience too much? Or do you think fans will appreciate that?
This is a great idea tying to that rich tradition that already exists, and just throwing a professional twist into the mix. The fans are going to love this, football year round, something they love with passion.
It is likely that if teams get their players from specific regions, former rivals will now be playing on the same team. Do you think fans will have a problem with this?
From the players’ perspective, I don’t see that being a big issue. But do you think that will bother fans? No, some host universities will not employ true rivalries such as
It’s been said on the AAFL web site that the average player's total yearly compensation, including benefits, is to be around $100,000. With 40 players per team, and six teams, that’s already $24 million per year spent on the salaries of players. I assume there also still needs to be wide scale promotion of the league as well which will cost more money. With ticket prices starting at $10-$15, and TV deals yet to be completed, do you think it will difficult for the league to turn a profit?
TV deal will be completed very soon, the league will turn a minus cal. profit this year to get it up and running, but when it expands then the revenue is generated!
There is also the potential for fan ownership of teams. Do you expect a fair number of people to be interested in team ownership? Yes, if they can come up with the money someone will purchase a team. Money talks a thousand miles.
Despite the fact that the league’s major goal is to increase the graduation rate of football players, do you think there’s a conflict of interest in having professional teams playing on college campuses?
No, its motivation in my eyes to those athletes who are playing for those universities to see players from the AAFL as role models, to inspire them to get their education. Also, AAFL will be giving back to the community during off season. This league is a positive issue in
What do you hope to accomplish and what do you hope the league accomplishes in this first year?
My goal for this league is to come into camp into shape, go out there and be the most dominant player I can be. Put God first and everything else will take care of itself. The league will accomplish many things, I just hope one day that the league will have plans for us after football; I also hope the league fields teams all across the country to reward those athletes who did the right thing by going to class! No matter what happened on or off the field, they have a degree give them a shot!