American Indoor Football

Professional indoor football league
American Indoor Football
Most recent season or competition:
2024 American Indoor Football season
American Indoor Football logo
FormerlyAtlantic Indoor Football League (2005)
American Indoor Football League (2006)
American Indoor Football Association (2007–10)
SportIndoor football
Founded2005
First season2005
Ceased2024
PresidentBrandon Ikard
CommissionerJohn Morris
MottoFast-Paced Family Fun
No. of teams5
CountryUnited States
Last
champion(s)
Columbus Lions (1st AIF title)
Most titlesBaltimore Mariners (2 titles)
Sponsor(s)Ai Apparel Group
Kratz Solutions
EyeBlack.com
Sweet Sacrifice Success
Related
competitions
AFL, IFL, NAL, TAL
Official websiteAIF-Football.com

American Indoor Football (AIF) was a professional indoor football league, one of the several regional professional indoor football leagues in North America.

The AIFL began as a regional league with six franchises on the East Coast of the United States in 2005. After a rapid, and largely failed, expansion effort in 2006, most of the league's remaining teams jumped to the new AIFA (the rest joined the short-lived WIFL). The AIFA expanded throughout existing territory and, in 2008, expanded into the Western United States. The league legally divided into two entities to allow for a partial merger with the Southern Indoor Football League, which resulted in all of its Eastern teams merging into the SIFL and the AIFA only maintaining its western teams. The league's western component, which remained separate of the merger, had indicated it would play as the AIFA West for the 2011 season but ceased operations January 2011. The league announced it would be relaunching as American Indoor Football in time for spring 2012.

After the 2016 season, the AIF ceased operations with the former AIF owner stating his support for the recently created Arena Developmental League. In 2021, league owner John Morris announced he planned to relaunch the AIF for the 2022 season, though no games would be played.[1]

In 2023, it was announced that the league was relaunched by president and commissioner John Morris with four new teams: the Cedar Rapids River Kings, Corpus Christi Tritons, RiverCity Rage and West Virginia Miners.[2] The Columbus Lions rejoined the league after winning the most recent AIF Championship in 2016.[3] However, in 2024, the league announced a merger with the National Arena League, thus effectively ending its second chance. [4]

History

The league has its roots in the Atlantic Indoor Football League, which began play in 2005 under the leadership of Andrew Haines.[5] The first team to join the AIFL was the Johnstown RiverHawks.[6] The league began with six teams, all of them based in the eastern United States. Two teams played all of their games on the road,[7] and the regular season was cut short two weeks because of teams being unable to secure venues for playoff games. In the 2005–06 offseason, the league changed its name to the American Indoor Football League, while nine expansion teams entered the league and a tenth (the Rome Renegades) joined from the National Indoor Football League.

The 2006 season was marred by the folding of two teams, and the league used semi-pro teams to fill scheduling vacancies. The league was briefly acquired by Greens Worldwide, Inc., the owners of the amateur North American Football League, during the 2006 season, but they terminated the contract soon afterwards. Nine teams left the league after the season, including four who split off to create the short-lived World Indoor Football League. On October 2, 2006, a massive reorganization took place as Morris and Michael Mink set up a new league, which absorbed all of the remaining AIFL franchises, and Haines was ousted. (Haines would go on to create the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League in 2007, before similar stability problems led to the forced divestiture of that league as well. Haines would, in April 2010, announce he was relaunching his league as the Ultimate Indoor Football League beginning in 2011 and revived two defunct former AIFL teams.) The league took on the American Indoor Football Association name at the same time.

The 2007 season was relatively successful for the league, as all 112 scheduled games were played and no teams folded mid-season, a major improvement over the past two seasons (when the AIFA was known as the AIFL). The AIFA Championship Bowl I was a neutral site game held in Florence, South Carolina. In addition, the league held its first All-Star Game the same weekend, also in Florence. League owners stated that the neutral site was chosen so that both games could be televised to obtain nationwide exposure for the league.

The league then expanded nationwide; some individual teams were able to acquire several players with NFL experience, a sign that the league had achieved a level on par with leagues such as af2. The league earned a major television contract as well: On September 17, 2007, The American Indoor Football Association owners John Morris and Michael Min announced that the league signed a three-year national television broadcast, mobile phone broadcast, and webcast licensing agreement with Simply 4Me Incorporated (d.b.a. SimplyMe TV).[8] However, that deal was subsequently cancelled. Later in the season, FSN Pittsburgh agreed to pick up the remaining games; Erie, Pennsylvania-based Image Sports Network was also involved with the league.

Eight teams participating in the league in 2007 did not return for the 2008 season, including the 2007 champion Lakeland Thunderbolts. The AIFA became the third league since 2004 (excluding the folded WIFL and NIFL before its folding) to lose its standing champion (the 2004 NIFL champion Lexington Horsemen left to join the newly created UIF and later were in af2, and the 2006 champion Billings Outlaws also left to join two years later). However, nine teams signed on to begin play in 2008, and the league created a Western Conference. In 2007, the team farthest west was based in Mississippi; in 2008, the team farthest west was based in Arizona. Three of the four teams who had won the league championship to that point were no longer active league members.

The 2009 season culminated in AIFA Championship Bowl III, hosted by the Western Conference champion Wyoming Cavalry on July 25, 2009. The game, played before 6,500 fans at the Casper Events Center, saw the Reading Express defeat the Wyoming Cavalry for their first title, 65–42.

As the 2010 season approached, AIFA continued to expand its nationwide footprint. Expansion franchises had been added in Richmond, Virginia; Yakima, Washington; Wasilla, Alaska (believed to be the smallest city in America to host a national professional football franchise) and Wenatchee, Washington. The moves gave the AIFA a much more significant presence on the West Coast of the United States. To accommodate this, and to keep travel expenses down, for the 2010 season the AIFA adopted a scheduling system that effectively treated the Eastern and Western conferences as separate leagues, with no regular-season crossover between the two conferences. The league also secured a television contract with AMGTV, which was to syndicate a "Game of the Week" package to regional sports networks and its network of low-powered broadcast stations.

In 2010, the Baltimore Mariners completed the league's first-ever perfect season by winning all fourteen regular season games and winning AIFA Championship Bowl IV.[9]

Split, partial merger with the SIFL and first cessation of operations

The AIFA arranged a split and partial merger with the Southern Indoor Football League after the 2010 season. As part of the deal, Morris would acquire the rights to the Eastern Conference teams and merge them into the SIFL,[10] while Mink would retain the western conference teams, rights to the AIFA name, and television contract, the last of which was extended through 2013.

The AIFA West originally announced that it would begin its season with four teams, beginning in March 2011, after the Tucson Thunder Kats announced it would be suspending operations until 2012. As of January 2011, no schedule had been released, and the league informed the remaining three teams that there would not be a fourth team representing Eugene, Oregon as the league had earlier promised. The league attempted to work out a schedule with the remaining three teams, but the Reno Barons and Stockton Wolves were unwilling to go forward with such a schedule and broke from the league. Both teams operated as the two-team "Western Indoor Football Association" in 2011, each playing whatever semi-pro teams were willing to face them in addition to each other. With only the Yakima Valley Warriors left, the AIFA ceased operations; it said that it would attempt to relaunch in 2012 with eight to 12 teams in at least two regions of the United States.

As of June 2011, Morris had released a statement indicating he still represented the AIFA when he purchased the assets of the Fayetteville Force.[10]

Relaunch, folding and second relaunch

AIF Logo 2011-2016
Triangle Torch (black jerseys with and red and yellow accents) vs. Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (gold jerseys with black accents) during a game at Dorton Arena, March 25, 2016

On October 27, 2011, the AIFA announced it was relaunching as American Indoor Football (AIF). The move came in light of the dissolution of the SIFL and its breakup into the Professional Indoor Football League and the Lone Star Football League. AIF announced its intentions to absorb the three remaining SIFL teams not in either the PIFL or LSFL (the Harrisburg Stampede, Trenton Steel and Carolina Speed), as well as the remaining teams that would have participated in the AIFA West. AIF intended to launch an amateur division as well.[11]

In 2015, the league absorbed the remains of the Continental Indoor Football League, picking up the Saginaw Sting and Chicago Blitz from that league; the CIFL Web site became a redirect to AIF's. (The two other surviving teams from that league chose to play in other leagues: Erie decided to join the PIFL, while the Marion Blue Racers fulfilled an earlier promise to join the X-League). In homage to the CIFL, AIF split into two conferences, one bearing the American name and the other (which includes both CIFL refugees) named the Continental Conference. The conference names were changed to Northern and Southern for the 2016 season.

The 2016 season saw the league grow from nine teams to a total of 28 announced teams. However, only 21 teams ever played a league game that season, including four teams that folded midseason and several other teams cancelling scheduled games. The Columbus Lions, which joined for 2016, would finish the season undefeated and win the championship. The Lions then announced that they were leaving the league due to the league's instability, especially in the Southern Division where the Lions were the only team that did not have a cancelled or rescheduled game. On July 7, 2016, the Lions' owners announced the formation of a new league, the Arena Developmental League.[12] On July 13, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks also announced they were leaving the AIF.

In response, AIF owner Jim Morris announced on July 18, 2016, that the AIF was ceasing operations immediately. He also announced his support of the new Arena Developmental League (which later changed its name to National Arena League before its inaugural season) and hoped the new league would take on many of the former AIF teams.[13]

The Buffalo Blitz (formerly the Buffalo Lightning) used the official AIF football in their press announcement upon joining the Can-Am Indoor Football League, which was created by announced AIF 2017 expansion team Vermont Bucks.[14] The Can-Am also used the AIF footballs in games during their only season.

On July 3, 2023, John Morris announced that the league would indeed relaunch in 2024 with four new teams: Cedar Rapids River Kings, Corpus Christi Tritons, RiverCity Rage and West Virginia Miners.[15] On August 4, 2023, the league announced that the Columbus Lions, the last team to win the AIF Championship in 2016, were returning to the league.[16] On August 24, 2023, the league announced that the Amarillo Venom would return and join the AIF for the 2024 season.[17] On September 11, 2023, the league announced that an expansion team to be based in Albany, Georgia, would also join the AIF for 2024 as its eighth franchise.[18] On September 29, 2023, the league announced the Beaumont Renegades as their ninth team for the 2024 season,[19] but on October 30, the league announced that the Renegades will play an exhibition schedule only in 2024, and will join the league full time in 2025, while the AIF granted West Virginia Miners release from the league after change in the team ownership group.[20] On February 20, 2024, it was announced that Brandon Ikard would be taking over as President/CEO of the AIF and moving the league in a new direction.[21] On June 26, 2024, the AIF released the River Kings from the league.[22] The next day, the league announced that league founder John Morris was stepping down as commissioner.[23] On June 28, 2024, the league announced that the Beaumont Renegades were declared "a dormant franchise approved by previous league regimen", yet has invited the team to reapply for membership in the future.[24]

Merger with the NAL

On July 9, 2024, the league announced they were joining the National Arena League, which added the Tritons and Stampede and welcomed back the Lions. The Venom were not a part of the merger. [25]

Basic rule differences

The AIFA's red, white, and blue football
  • AIF did not use rebound nets found in the Arena Football League and National Arena League.
  • One linebacker could move flat to flat but was required to stay in drop zone.
  • Platooning and free substitution were allowed, meaning players did not have to play both offense and defense.
  • Franchises were required to have at least nine players that originated from within a 120-mile radius of the team's home town.
  • The AIF ball pattern was similar to that of the basketball in the American Basketball Association, with red, white, and blue panels as opposed to the brown colored football of most leagues. This pattern originated in the AIFL and is also used in the UIFL.

Two rule changes appeared to be inspired by Canadian football rules:

  • Two offensive players could be in motion at one time. The AFL allows only one in motion.
  • The AIF recognized the single (also known as an uno or rouge). If a kickoff goes through the uprights, or if the receiving team does not advance the ball out of the end zone on a kickoff, the kicking team is awarded one point and the ball is spotted at the opponent's five yard line.

Teams

Final Teams

Team Location Arena Capacity Founded Joined Head coach
Amarillo Venom Amarillo, Texas Amarillo Civic Center 4,912 2003 2024 Rick Kranz
Columbus Lions Columbus, Georgia Columbus Civic Center 7,573 2006 2024 Damian Daniels
Corpus Christi Tritons Corpus Christi, Texas American Bank Center 10,000 2023 2024 Bradly Chavez
Harrisburg Stampede Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center 7,600 2008 2024 Bernie Nowotarski

Map of teams

class=notpageimage|
AIF team locations announced for 2024 return

Former teams

Substitute teams

Championship games

Year Winner Score Loser
2005 Richmond Bandits[34] 56–30 Erie Freeze
2006 Canton Legends 54–49 Rome Renegades
2007 Lakeland Thunderbolts 54–49 Reading Express
2008 Florence Phantoms 48–12 Wyoming Cavalry
2009 Reading Express 65–42 Wyoming Cavalry
2010 Baltimore Mariners[35] 57–42 Wyoming Cavalry
2012 Cape Fear Heroes[36] 79–27 California Eagles
2013 Harrisburg Stampede[37] 52–37 Cape Fear Heroes
2014 Baltimore Mariners[38] 45–44 Cape Fear Heroes
2015 York Capitals[39] 58–30 Chicago Blitz
2016 Columbus Lions[40] 74–32 West Michigan Ironmen
2024 Columbus Lions 46–20 Corpus Christi Tritons

See also

References

  1. ^ "AMERICAN INDOOR FOOTBALL (AIF) SETS STAGE FOR A 2022 RETURN". AIF. June 29, 2021. Archived from the original on July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  2. ^ "AIF announces return to the field in 2024- First 4 Teams Announced". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. July 3, 2023. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  3. ^ "COLUMBUS LIONS JOIN AMERICAN INDOOR FOOTBALL (AIF) FOR THE 2024 INDOOR SEASON". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. August 4, 2023. Retrieved August 4, 2023.
  4. ^ "AMERICAN INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE JOINS THE NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE". NAL. July 9, 2024.
  5. ^ "AIFL Adds NFL Names and Faces". www.oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. September 9, 2004. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  6. ^ "AIFL Announces First Team". www.oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. October 4, 2004. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  7. ^ "Carolina Sharks Suspended For 2005 AIFL; Ghostriders To Fill Void". www.oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. April 15, 2005. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  8. ^ "simply ME". www.simplyme.tv. Archived from the original on 11 September 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Baltimore Mariners Grab League's Top Honors". oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. October 5, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  10. ^ a b Sammy Batten. "American Indoor Football league meeting reveals regional focus". www.fayobserver.com. The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved December 9, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ AIFAProFootball.com. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  12. ^ Lions owner Seda establishes new Arena Developmental League, Dana Barker, Columbus Ledger-Inquirer, July 7, 2016
  13. ^ "American Indoor Football League Ceases Operations". OurSports Central. July 18, 2016.
  14. ^ "Can-Am indoor football coming to Buffalo". WGRZ. January 25, 2017.
  15. ^ "AIF announces return to the field in 2024- First 4 Teams Announced". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. July 3, 2023. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  16. ^ "COLUMBUS LIONS JOIN AMERICAN INDOOR FOOTBALL (AIF) FOR THE 2024 INDOOR SEASON". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. August 4, 2023. Retrieved August 4, 2023.
  17. ^ "American Indoor Football (AIF) Expands Ownership; Amarillo Venom to play in the AIF for the 2024 Indoor Football season". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. August 24, 2023. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
  18. ^ "American Indoor Football (AIF) Welcomes Albany, GA as 8th Franchise for the 2024 Indoor Season". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. September 11, 2023. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
  19. ^ "Beaumont Renegades: A Dynamic Addition to American Indoor Football (AIF)". aif-proindoorfootball.com. American Indoor Football. September 29, 2023. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  20. ^ "AIF Announces 2024 Indoor Season Schedule". American Indoor Football.
  21. ^ "News: Ikard Takes Helm as President/CEO of AIF - American Indoor Football (AIF)". aif-football.footballshift.com. 2024-02-20. Retrieved 2024-04-07.
  22. ^ "AIF RELEASES RIVER KINGS". American Indoor Football. 2024-06-26. Retrieved 2024-06-27.
  23. ^ "AIF COMMISSIONER STEPPING DOWN". American Indoor Football. 2024-06-27. Retrieved 2024-06-27.
  24. ^ "AIF OFF-SEASON CHANGES BASED ON LONGEVITY". American Indoor Football. 2024-06-28.
  25. ^ "AMERICAN INDOOR FOOTBALL LEAGUE JOINS THE NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE". NAL. July 9, 2024.
  26. ^ "Jags announce membership in EIFC". Elite Indoor Football Conference. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  27. ^ "D.C. Armor considers leaving D.C." Washington Business Journal. November 10, 2009. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  28. ^ "D.C. Team goes in deep Freeze". goerie.com. October 9, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  29. ^ Fender, Richie (October 6, 2008). "AIFA Fayetteville Guard Open Team Tryouts". bleacherreport.com. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  30. ^ "No Show Huntington Heroes". goerie.com. October 9, 2007. Archived from the original on August 11, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  31. ^ "Cottonmouths Postpone Season". OurSports Central. February 15, 2016.
  32. ^ "Reading Express shuts down for 2013 season". Reading Eagle. June 6, 2012. Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  33. ^ "CAN-AM Indoor Football League". Archived from the original on 2016-08-24. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  34. ^ "Bandits crowned inaugural AIFL champions; Win 56-30 over Freeze". www.oursportscentral.com. OurSports Central. July 17, 2005. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  35. ^ "AIFA Bowl IV: Wyoming Cavalry @ Baltimore Mariners". Youtube. July 28, 2010. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  36. ^ "Heroes win AIF championship to complete perfect 9-0 season". fayobserver.com. June 17, 2012. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  37. ^ "Harrisburg Stampede and York Capitals – Winner Plays in AIF". Our Sports Central. May 29, 2013. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  38. ^ Junious Smith III (June 14, 2014). "Cape Fear Heroes lose AIF title game to Baltimore Mariners, 45-44". www.fayobserver.com. Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  39. ^ Eric Thomas (June 6, 2015). "Watson's defense spurs York Capitals to AIF championship vs. Chicago Blitz". www.ydr.com. The York Daily Record. Archived from the original on July 4, 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  40. ^ Dana Barker (June 19, 2016). "Lions capture AIF title in bizarre, blowout fashion". www.ledger-enquirer.com. Ledger-Enquirer. Retrieved June 20, 2016.

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