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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
Will Memphis be ready for another pro football team? The city will find out on Thursday when the Alliance of American Football announces more details regarding the team.
The AAF, created by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian, will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl announcing the team's coach and president.
It's the latest league trying to take advantage of a football void in the winter and spring but with its rule changes and fantasy football features, it hopes to cater even more to the fans. The league will start play in February 2019.
Memphis previously had franchises in the World Football League, Arena Football, USFL, Canadian Football League and most recently the XFL in 2001. It was also the temporary home of the Tennessee Titans in 1997 after the team relocated from being the Houston Oilers.
Here are five things to know about the league and what to expect on Thursday
What is the AAF?
The AAF was announced on March 20 as an eight-team league.The opening game will be shown on CBS on Feb. 9, the week after the Super Bowl, and will feature a 10-game regular season schedule. The playoffs will be two rounds culminating with the championship on the weekend of April 26-28.
Each week, a game will be shown on CBS Sports Network. The rest of the games will be available to watch on the league's app, which will also integrate fantasy football rewards on and off the field.
Memphis was announced as the league's third franchise on Saturday when former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward made the announcement on the league's Twitter page. Ward will be present on Thursday along with Alliance head of operations J.K. McKay
Each team will have 50-man rosters with players selected from those who don't make the NFL or are playing in the Arena League or CFL. Teams will also be able to draft players who played in their local market in college.
Who else is involved?
Besides Polian and Ebersol, the son of legendary TV executive Dick Ebersol, league advisers include Ward and former NFL players Justin Tuck and Troy Polamalu.
The league is being financed by several investors, including former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, The Chernin Group, which owns Barstool Sports, and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel's Founders Fund.
Where are the league's first two teams?
The AAF has already announced franchises are coming to Atlanta and Orlando with high profile coaches. Orlando will be coached by former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
Atlanta will be led by former NFL coach Brad Childress and its offensive coordinator will be former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Polian has said in reports that he prefers the league hire coaches with NFL backgrounds so Thursday could see a familiar name emerge to lead the Memphis team.
How is the AAF different from the NFL?
There are several significant rule changes. Teams must attempt two-point conversions after touchdowns and there will be no kickoffs, meaning each team will start its possession on its own 25-yard line just like touchbacks in the NFL and NCAA.
Instead of onside kicks, the scoring team can elect to run a play from its 35-yard line that must go at least 10 yards to retain possession.
The play clock will run 30 seconds instead of 40 in the NFL and there will be no television timeouts. Charlie Ebersol told the Washington Post that he hopes to have 60 percent fewer commercials than an NFL game in order to finish games in under 2 1/2 hours.
Can it work in Memphis?
That remains to be seen. The inaugural season will also coincide with the start of Memphis' United Soccer League franchise in March 2019.
While the AAF has no other football competition for 2019, things could get interesting in 2020 when the XFL will be revived under World Wrestling Entertainment founder Vince McMahon. McMahon and Dick Ebersol collaborated on the XFL in 2001.
Most of Memphis' recent football teams - the Showboats (USFL), Pharaohs (Arena Football), Southmen (World Football), Mad Dogs (CFL), Maniax (XFL) - all lasted between one to two years. The Xplorers from the AF2, the Arena Football's developmental league, lasted six seasons.
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