The Alliance of American Football just wrapped up eight weeks of action and had two games remaining in an inaugural regular season.
The league, though, will not see the end after AAF chairman Tom Dundon suspended football operations Tuesday afternoon.
"I am extremely disappointed to learn Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football," AAF co-founder Bill Polian said in a statement Tuesday. "When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.
"The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity."
The AAF notified all employees later Tuesday afternoon of the decision in a league-wide email, which was obtained by NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
"Over the last year, we have been able to realize some amazing accomplishments," the email read. "We launched a football league, a ground breaking sports technology and APP, and established production and broadcast arrangements to air our content on major networks. Together we created some incredible moments for football and our fans. We are very proud of what we accomplished and appreciate the contributions each of you made during that process.
"Unfortunately, after careful consideration, the board has decided to suspend operations of the Alliance of American Football, effective immediately. As part of this process, we expect to keep a small staff on hand to seek new investment capital and restructure our business. Should those efforts prove successful, we look forward to working with many of you on season two. As a follow up to this communication, we will reach out to the personnel who will be involved in that continuation effort."
Dundon, the principal owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, assumed the position of AAF chairman after committing $250 million to the league following Week 1 of action.
Shortly after Dundon's financial involvement, the AAF scoffed at the idea that the money was needed to keep the league alive. And Memphis Express head coach Mike Singletary recently offered high praise on the league's front office and infrastructure.
The news of Dundon suspending operations caught many by surprise and was met with sadness and disappointment.
"Some of us didn't get in to the Alliance to try to advance our careers," Orlando Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier told reporters Tuesday, via WFTV. "But the players, I'm more disappointed for all the players that believe this is my chance to show people and this that and the other that I can play this game. And a lot of them will get opportunities. They've shown enough. But, yeah, sad to end this way, really sad to end this way."
Players signed three-year, $250,000 contracts to play in the AAF and the league was applauded by many around the NFL, including general managers, for its approach as another avenue to help coaches and players develop.
One AFC executive previously told NFL.com that the AAF comes at a good time because of the annual draft process, which allows the AAF to provide a deeper pool of players for NFL teams to consider for 90-player offseason rosters.
Such an opportunity could come knocking for some of Spurrier's players, such as wide receiver Charles Johnson, who has led the AAF in receiving from the start. Additionally, Apollos left tackle Aaron Evans, who spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, has also turned heads and a "handful of NFL teams" have expressed interest in him, a source told NFL.com.
Spurrier previously told NFL.com that his hope is at least 20 of his players would get the call to the NFL, and Polian reinforced that stance from a league-wide perspective.
"My thanks go out to all who made our football product so competitive and professional," Polian said. "I am certain there are many among them destined for future success in the NFL and I look forward to doing all I can to help them in their quest."
Meanwhile, there was an effort Monday night between the NFLPA and Dundon to figure a way for both parties to work together, Kinkhabwala reported.
Kinkhabwala added that Dundon acknowledged that the suspension of activities remained a possibility, but did not make it appear imminent, and both sides left the conversation feeling like the discussion of ideas would continue before Tuesday's news.
"I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded," Polian said Tuesday in his statement. "They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action."