Fall Experimental Football League

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Fall Experimental Football League
FXFL Logo.png
Sport American football
Founded May 7, 2014
Inaugural season 2014
Ceased 2016
CEO Brian Woods
No. of teams 3
Country United States
Last
champion(s)
Brooklyn Bolts
Most titles Brooklyn Bolts (1)
TV partner(s) Regional channels
plus ESPN 3
Official website www.gofxfl.com

The Fall Experimental Football League (FXFL) was a professional football minor league that played two seasons in 2014 and 2015. This league's stated goal was to become a professional feeder-system for the National Football League (NFL).

The FXFL was the first football league to be established by Brian Woods; it would later be followed with The Spring League in 2017. 44 out of 126 players ended up on NFL rosters.[1]

History

In the summer of 2013, Brian Woods began work on a business plan for a future football development league.[2] With NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent indicating in an April 2014 interview a need for a developmental football league, Woods, a sports lawyer and executive director of the Medal of Honor Bowl, put that business plan in action to launch such a league in October 2014 that envisioned six franchises primarily based in minor league baseball stadiums.[3][4] The Fall Experimental Football League was announced by Woods on May 7, 2014.[5] Original targeted markets for teams were New York, Boston, Omaha, Orlando, Portland, and either San Antonio or Memphis with Wednesday games. The league is expected to own two teams outright and four franchised teams.[3] By June 20, Tommie Harris and Eric Bassey were announced as the first owners for a franchise in Austin, Texas, the Texas Outlaws, with other teams announced without ownership were New York, Boston, Omaha, Portland, Oregon and an unselected Florida city.[6][7]

On August 20, 2014, Woods announced that the league would consist of just four teams — Brooklyn, Boston, Omaha and Miami — with players released from NFL teams to allocated and reporting on September 24 with games to start October 8. Cities in which interest in franchises came from Columbus, Ohio, and Springfield, Missouri.[8] The Miami team became a traveling team.[2]

The FXFL debuted on time with the inaugural game in Omaha on October 8, 2014 between the Omaha Mammoths and the Boston Brawlers at TD Ameritrade Park with the Mammoths winning 41-18.[9] By Week 3 of the 2014 season, Nivea had become a sponsor of the league, with sponsor logo on the left shoulder and helmets; additionally, a reality web show on the FXFL appeared, sponsored by Nivea.[10]

The inaugural 2014 season was cut short after the November 7 contest, with one regular season game and a championship left unplayed.[11][12] The decision was made that the Bolts, the team with the best record at 4-0, would be declared the first FXFL Champions, according to ESPN 3. In a report from the Associated Press, commissioner Brian Woods said that he was satisfied with the season and said he envisioned a bigger FXFL in 2015, with more affiliations with minor league baseball teams and stadia, targeting such cities as Memphis, Austin, Oklahoma City and somewhere in Florida. Woods also expected Brooklyn and Omaha to return.[12] Woods later backed off plans for expansion and said that 2015 would most likely only have five teams at most.[13]

WYTV in Niles, Ohio reported on July 10, 2015 that the league was expected to place a franchise in that city for the 2015 season. The announcement also confirmed that the Brooklyn Bolts would return, the league would remain fixed at four teams for the 2015 season, and three out of four of the teams would be sharing a stadium with a New York–Penn League baseball team (this included the Bolts and the Ohio franchise).[14] A later leak reported in the local newspaper The Vindicator that the Omaha Mammoths would not return for 2015 and would be replaced by a team in the Hudson Valley, but that the Florida Blacktips would make a second attempt at establishing themselves in Florida.[15] The league unexpectedly contracted the Brawlers on September 28, 2015, with the team's franchisee stating that the league demanded a large sum of money in order for the team to take the field for the 2015 season.[16] The 2015 season also ended prematurely, with the league office canceling the last regular season game days before it was scheduled to be played.[17]

Since the abrupt end of the 2015 season in October, there were no official statements made by the league (whether the Bolts could claim a championship given the extremely irregular schedule was left undecided) and the last posts on social media were made in December 2015. There was already doubt regarding the Hudson Valley team's future, as the stadium owner had only offered a one-year trial lease to the team, and their lone season was marred by safety concerns and defections.[18] The Brooklyn Bolts were the last holdout, waiting through summer 2016 for word from the league whether or not it would return, before the team's parent company announced in August that neither the league nor the Bolts would return for the fall season.[19]

The league announced a suspension of operations on September 2, 2016.[20] Commissioner Brian Woods has reportedly expressed interest possibly using a former FXFL team's brand in an indoor football league, such as the Arena Football League.[21] A team in the National Arena League acquired the rights to the Boston Brawlers name in August 2017.[22]

In 2017, Brian Woods re-emerged as CEO of another minor professional football league, The Spring League, which operates on a similar concept.[23]

Rule differences

As its name implies, the league adopted several experimental rule changes differing from those at other levels of the game with some at the request of the NFL.[24] Initial plans for the league had punting, the PAT and kickoffs taken out of the game,[25] but this proposal was scrapped prior to the start of the season.[2]

  • Extra points were attempted from 35 yards out.[2] Both the NFL and Canadian Football League later adopted similar rules in 2015.
  • All kicks originated at a wide hash mark for a greater difficulty.[2]
  • Kickoffs were taken from the kicking team's 25-yard line, in order to decrease touchbacks and "increase coverage opportunities". In addition, eight players on the receiving team lined up between the kicking team's 35- and 45-yard lines for the possibility of decreasing "high-impact collisions".[2] Once a kickoff passes the 45 yard line, fielding rules became similar to punts in that the kicking team is not allowed to recover and regain possession.
  • Games were originally played on Wednesday nights to avoid competition with high school football (Friday and Saturday), college football (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and the NFL (Thursday, Sunday and Monday); the league also played some Friday night games later in the season.[26] The league abandoned this approach in 2015 and scheduled most of its games for Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Cut blocking was illegal.[27]
  • All players on a team's roster played in each game whenever possible.[28]

Business plan

Woods was quoted as saying about the new league: "Our long-term goal is to establish a partnership with the NFL and we feel can do that on many platforms. It would give them a way to work with younger players that they don't currently have. We can help them train prospective NFL officials—in the NBA, every referee entering the league (in recent years) comes from NBA Development League. We can be a testing ground for proposed rules, too."[29] The league has an agreement with the NFL to use officials from the elder league's training academy for FXFL games.[24] Had the FXFL succeeded in establishing a formal partnership with the NFL, it would have been the fifth such time the NFL has established a partnership with a minor league, following the Association of Professional Football Leagues of the 1940s, the Atlantic Coast Football League in the 1960s, NFL Europe of the 1990s and 2000s, and the NFL-owned teams in the Arena Football League (prior to 2008).

Rosters

Each FXFL team employed 40 players on their roster with a base salary of $1000 per game and a maximum potential payout of $1250 per game.[3] (At least one team was paying as little as $300 per game in the 2015 season.[30]) The league mainly recruited those who were released from NFL training camps in August and not assigned to practice squads with the players being pooled then allocated to the teams[8] and transferable at the league's discretion.[31] Those that could not go or would not go to college were also considered, but the league did not actively recruit NCAA players. The league also did not pursue experienced professional players and intended not to allow any player to play more than three years in the league (the league only lasted two years, rendering this rule moot); one anecdote had the league turning down Maurice Jones-Drew on account of his career being near its end (the anecdote may not be true, since Jones-Drew was already signed to a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders before the league was founded).[32] The league softened its stance on this stipulation for 2015; Josh Freeman, who spent four years as starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was signed to the Brooklyn Bolts for that year.[33] Each team also had territorial rights to players, so any player in a team's territory was first choice is to that team. The league and team owners originally planned to arrange host families for the players, similar to other minor leagues;[25] players instead were housed in hotels.[28][34][27]

Finances

The league operated under a budget of $8 to $9 million for the first season[3] and expected to be able to be viable with minor or development team attendance of 3,000 plus.[9] The league reported receiving enough financing to operate for the first season. The FXFL sold game film to NFL teams as an additional source of revenue.[27] In the long term, the FXFL did not expect to be profitable without official NFL support, which it never received.[2] The league operated at a financial loss in the 2014 season,[27] and Woods is said to have invested almost all of his personal wealth into the league by the end of the 2015 season.[30]

A franchise cost was set at $500,000.[4] The Brooklyn Bolts was a joint venture between the league and Jeff Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones. The Blacktips and Omaha Mammoths were league owned and operated.[31] The Brawlers were initially reported as being independently owned[31] but no owner was ever identified and the league later admitted that that was not true.[28] For 2015, the franchise was to be operated by the Mahoning Valley Scrappers minor league baseball team.[35] The Hudson Valley franchise was to be held by the Hudson Valley Renegades.[15]

Broadcasting

The league syndicated its games to a collection of 14 regional channels: Sportsnet New York, New England Sports Network, NESN National, Cox Sports (New Orleans), Cox San Diego, Altitude, Tuff TV, Soul of the South Network, Untamed TV and The U Too. In addition, ESPN3 held online streaming media rights.[2][36][37][38] The broadcast deals provided no guaranteed revenue to the league but did offer a share of advertising;[2] it is not known if the league paid for production expenses or airtime as the UFL had to do.

Telecasts of FXFL games abruptly stopped midway through the 2015 season with the last two games on the schedule completely blacked out.

Teams

Team City Stadium (capacity)[39] Years played[8]
Brooklyn Bolts Brooklyn, NYC, New York MCU Park (10,000) 2014–15
Florida Blacktips N/A Traveling team[2] 2014–15
Hudson Valley Fort Fishkill, New York Dutchess Stadium (4,500) 2015
Boston Brawlers Boston, Massachusetts Harvard Stadium (30,323) 2014[40]
Omaha Mammoths Omaha, Nebraska TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (24,000) 2014

Announced teams that never played

[6]

Seasons

Season Teams Games First place Record Second place Record
2014 4 8 Brooklyn Bolts 4–0 Omaha Mammoths 3–1
2015 3 5 Brooklyn Bolts 4–1 FXFL Blacktips 1–1

*For the 2014 season, for which a championship game had been scheduled but canceled, the Bolts were awarded the league title based on regular season record. No championship was awarded for the 2015 season.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Clayton, John (December 23, 2016). "Spring league kicking off 4-team, 3-week development plan in April". ABC News. Retrieved August 30, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Seifert, Kevin (October 8, 2014). "Inside slant: FXFL set to debut, ready or not". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Seifert, Kevin (June 4, 2014). "Time is right for minor league football". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Grossi, Tony (May 23, 2014). "Coming soon: A professional developmental football league that just may succeed". ESPNCleveland.com. ESPN. Archived from the original on October 10, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ Lariviere, David (May 7, 2014). "New Pro Football Launch May Eventually Serve As NFL's D League". Forbes. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "New York, Boston among FXFL sites". espn.com. ESPN. Associated Press. June 20, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  7. ^ Solomon, Dan (June 20, 2014). "The NFL-Style Developmental Football League Launching This Fall Will Base Its Texas Team in Austin". Texas Monthly. Emmis Publishing. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Seifert, Kevin (August 21, 2014). "New FXFL to begin play in October". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Kaipust, Rich (October 9, 2014). "Omaha Mammoths bruise Boston Brawlers in FXFL's inaugural game". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  10. ^ Morgan, Richard (October 25, 2014). "FXFL scores a new major sponsor from Nivea for Men". New York Post. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ Kaipust, Rich (November 7, 2014). "Mammoths, Bolts to play for title; game in Omaha off". omaha.com. Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "FXFL satisfied with mini-season". 
  13. ^ Larivere, David (December 4, 2014). "Developmental Football League Draws TV Contract, Major Sponsor in Inaugural Season". Forbes. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Krispinsky, Chad (July 13, 2015). "FXFL franchise coming to the valley". wytv.com. LIN Television Corporation. Retrieved July 14, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Brawlers will be part of FXFL". The Vindicator. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Ex-Buc Josh Freeman tries to restart career in fledgling league". Tampa Bay Times. New York Times. October 5, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Friday's HV Fort Game CANCELLED!". Hudson Valley Renegades. MiLB. Retrieved November 6, 2015. 
  18. ^ Thomaselli, Rich (November 21, 2015). "HUDSON VALLEY FORT: FXFL commissioner says issues have been resolved; County Exec Molinaro will “review and observe” before deciding on second season". 'Hudson Valley Sports Report'. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  19. ^ Weiss, Daniel S. (August 26, 2016). "Salute to the Brooklyn Bolts Night". Brooklyn Baseball Banter. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Hudson Valley Fort will not return". Poughkeepsie Journal. September 2, 2016. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  21. ^ Source: Bolts or Blacktips could make move to arena football. Brooklyn Baseball Banter (December 15, 2016). Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  22. ^ Krieger, Dan (August 28, 2017). "Weekly sports league & franchise report". OurSports Central. 
  23. ^ "Is Spring League an NFL springboard? It's at least a shot". ESPN. May 6, 2017. 
  24. ^ a b Kaipust, Rich (October 4, 2014). "FXFL to try adjusted rules". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved October 6, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Wilner, Barry (June 21, 2014). "New developmental league launching in fall". Associated Press. Retrieved October 21, 2014. [permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Bukowski, Peter (July 7, 2014). "New league hoping to bring a true minor-league system to pro football". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b c d Raskin, Alex (October 15, 2015). "In Its Second Season, the Three-Team FXFL Is Trying to Cozy Up to the NFL". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 15, 2015. 
  28. ^ a b c "In FXFL, Boston Brawlers keep NFL dreams alive". The Boston Globe. November 6, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2014. 
  29. ^ Jason Marcum, Jason Marcum (June 21, 2014). "FXFL To Launch In October; NFL's answer to Developmental League?". Journal-News. Cox Media Group. Archived from the original on August 6, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Setar, Cal (November 5, 2015). Fall Experimental Football League: The NFL's First Sustainable Farm System?. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
  31. ^ a b c Beaton, Andrew (October 7, 2014). "FXFL brings pro football back to Brooklyn". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  32. ^ Delessio, Joe (October 20, 2014). FXFL: Football's new experiment. Sports on Earth. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  33. ^ Manza-Young, Shalise (September 22, 2015). “Josh Freeman signs with—Brooklyn?Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  34. ^ Robichaud, David (November 7, 2014). Boston Brawlers, FXFL Players Hope For Shot At NFL. WBZ. Retrieved December 15, 2014.
  35. ^ Medore, Josh (July 16, 2015). Brawlers take new approach to football in Valley. The Business Journal. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  36. ^ "FXFL games to be online on ESPN". espn.com. ESPN. AP. October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  37. ^ Heitner, Darren (October 1, 2014). "ESPN agrees to broadcast new FXFL football league". Forbes. Retrieved October 6, 2014. 
  38. ^ "FXFL To Be Carried on ESPN3" (Press release). New York: FXFL. PR Newswire. October 1, 2014. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014 – via NBC Right Now. 
  39. ^ "About the FXFL". fxfl.com. Fall Experimental Football League. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  40. ^ "FXFL folding Mahoning Valley franchise". WFMJ. September 28, 2015. [permanent dead link]

External links

  • Official website
  • FXFL at Our Sports Central
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