When the Alliance of American Football starts play in February, it hopes to put players on the field in front of fans who cheered for them in college.
J.K. McKay, head of football operations for the AAF, told PFT that the AAF’s top priority in stocking the rosters for its teams will be to keep players who played their college football near the AAF’s eight cities close to home.
“You want to keep local kids home when you can,” McKay said. “It creates fan interest. Our Birmingham team will have Alabama and Auburn, and that will draw some fan interest.”
The AAF will have teams in Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, Tempe, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and San Diego. For players who didn’t go to college near any of those cities, they’ll be allocated to AAF teams based on the last NFL roster they were on. Previous rival leagues, including the USFL and XFL, have taken a similar approach.
“It just makes sense,” McKay said. “You’re bringing in guys people know. From a marketing standpoint it’s good, it allows players to stay home. Other leagues have done it and we’re absolutely committed to it and excited about it.”
McKay said the AAF expects to add a lot of good players in September, picking up training camp players who didn’t make the NFL’s roster cutdown from 90 to 53. The base deal in the AAF will be a three-year, $250,000 contract. Although any player who has the opportunity to play in the NFL is going to choose that over the AAF, McKay said the league has a good idea right now for who some of its top players will be.
“We have a pretty good sense now,” McKay said. “We’ve brought in some really excellent general managers who are experienced in the NFL. We can look now and put together a pretty good list of who you have right now.”
AAF teams will have 75 players on training camp rosters and 50 players on regular season rosters. All eight teams will open a joint training camp at the same location in early January, then break camp and practice in their home cities before the AAF’s inaugural season opens on February 9.
One thing the AAF will not do is bring in college freshmen or sophomores who are not yet eligible for the NFL draft. McKay said he doesn’t think players are ready for pro football until they’re three years out of high school.
“From a health and safety standpoint, we’re concerned about the idea of having a kid come sooner than that,” McKay said.
McKay said he thinks there are enough good football players not in the NFL that the AAF can put on high-quality football.
“The quality of football will determine what we do,” McKay said. “When guys play I think the NFL will take notice and fans will say these guys are good.”