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San Antonio to get pro football team

Not the NFL or the XFL but the AAF.

“After talking to [league co-founder and CEO] Charlie Ebersol, I knew the Alliance of American Football was right for San Antonio, and that San Antonio was right for the Alliance,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who participated in talks with the league prior to the announcement.

The AAF was unveiled in March as a complement to the NFL with its season kicking off in early February next year six days after the Super Bowl and finishing in April with a championship around the time of the NFL draft. It aims to put a quality product on the field made up of former college players and pros trying to make it back to the NFL and coached by names fans will recognize.

League officials, including Ebersol, a television and film producer, will be in town Thursday to announce the local general manager and head coach. San Antonio was the eighth and final city to be unveiled as a charter member of the new league joining Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; Salt Lake Cit; and San Diego.

Coaches such as Steve Spurrier in Orlando, Mike Singletary in Memphis, Rick Neuheisel in Phoenix, and Mike Martz in San Diego give the league credibility. Add to that a television contract with CBS and the league already appears to be on more stable footing than other professional football league startups of the past.

“Spring football forever has been thought of as a money grab,” Ebersol said during a Facebook Live event after announcing the league in March. “It has been thought of as somebody just going in and building a business very quickly and making money right out of the gate because people love football.

“But what we tried to build here was something bigger. We tried to put together a team, an alliance of people that were committed to what we could do if we actually started from scratch with a professional sports league.”

The AAF is funded by private investors but there are no individual owners for each team. It is what the league’s name suggests – an alliance aimed at building a strong product in each city.

[…]

The AAF founders have been working for more than a year to identify the cities in which they wanted to place the first eight teams. They also have been laying the groundwork for the league in talking with potential coaches, general managers, and considering ways in which they might want to make their brand of football different from the NFL.

Some of those differences will include no kickoffs, no extra points, no television timeouts, and a 30-second play clock instead of the 40-second clock in the NFL. The differences are rooted in player safety and shortening the length of games.

The San Antonio franchise will play its games at the Alamodome. The AAF was mentioned in that recent XFL story I blogged about, which was the first I had heard of it. Sounds like they have some interesting ideas, with this league maybe kind of serving the same function as the NBA G League does for that sport. The recent record of non-NFL pro football leagues is not great, but this one has a pretty good pedigree, so we’ll see. (Then again, so did the WLAF.) And since you’re wondering, yes, Charlie Ebersole is Dick Ebersole’s son.

Oakland Raiders to San Antonio?

There’s more than one Oakland-based sports team that’s been scoping out San Antonio as a possible place to relocate.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and two top lieutenants met recently with several San Antonio officials to discuss the potential of moving his NFL team from the Bay Area to the Alamo City, local leaders involved in the talks confirmed Tuesday.

On the weekend of July 18, Davis met with the officials, including Henry Cisneros, then-Mayor Julián Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, Mario Hernandez of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, and both Richard Perez and David McGee, the president and chairman of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, respectively.

Late Tuesday, after the Express-News published a version of this story on its websites, Sculley issued a memo to the City Council.

“I was asked to meet two weeks ago with the owner of the Oakland Raiders, Mark Davis, and members of his staff. Mr. Davis has expressed interest in a possible relocation of his NFL team to San Antonio and we are engaged in preliminary due diligence,” she wrote. “The agenda for this visit included a tour of the Alamodome and meetings with local business leaders.”

Sculley wrote that those discussions were preliminary and confidential and that she would update the council as things progressed.

San Antonio has often been used as a bargaining chip for pro sports franchises trying to negotiate better deals in their own respective cities, but sources have characterized Davis’ interest in San Antonio to be at least somewhat more serious. He is clearly perturbed with his current situation in Oakland, where the team’s lease expires after the 2014-15 season.

Cisneros, who led the charge to build the Alamodome when he was mayor, has been described by sources as the architect of the meeting. His son-in-law, Brad Badger, is in corporate sponsorship sales for the Raiders.

[…]

With some upgrades, the Alamodome could be ready for a 2015-16 NFL season, though it would be a temporary home at best. NFL teams likely would need 100 suites, and the Alamodome currently has 52. It physically could facilitate the addition of 48 more, but funding has yet to be earmarked by the city for such upgrades.

If the Raiders moved here, though, Davis is expected to seek a new stadium within a few years, after the team had proved itself in the Alamo City.

Color me shocked by that. As we know, the Oakland A’s have sniffed around San Antonio lately. They share the same stadium as the Raiders and have had similar concerns about its condition and their lease, but they just re-upped for ten years (with an escape clause after two), so that would seem to be off the table for now. While I’ve argued that San Antonio isn’t really suitable for a Major League Baseball team, I don’t think they’d have any trouble selling out ten NFL games (counting two preseason ones). San Antonio hosted the New Orleans Saints in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and there was some talk about the Saints staying there, but obviously that never happened. The main issue from the NFL’s perspective would be that San Antonio is a much smaller media market. Media market size is one reason why the NFL continues to be obsessed with putting a team back in Los Angeles, even by convoluted means. San Antonio makes for a nice bargaining chip, but for now at least it’s hard to see it as anything else.

There’s one more factor to consider:

NFL owners — including the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans — would have to vote on the deal.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has responded to an Express-News report that the Raiders are interested in relocating to San Antonio.

“San Antonio is very important to the Dallas Cowboys. We have the exact same percentage of fans in San Antonio as we do in Plano, Texas, about 98%. I don’t make a lot of this. At all.”

Jerry Jones is already saying that he would be an obstacle to any such relocation. The Raiders would need to get the support of 24 out of the 32 franchises to make the move, meaning that Jones would only need to convince eight of his buddies to vote No. (Texans owner Bob McNair seems to be more willing to accommodate the idea if it comes down to that.) So file this under “interesting stuff that will probably never amount to anything more” and let’s move on for now. Randy Harvey and the unequivocally negative Robert Rivard have more.

One more thing, from Trail Blazers:

Here’s a question: Gov. Rick Perry has spent millions luring businesses to Texas from his business-subsidy fund. If this is a real effort by Oakland to consider Texas as home for its NFL team, might the future governor — either Greg Abbott or Wendy Davis — be amenable to sweetening a deal if necessary to bring the Raiders to the Alamo City?

My personal answer is no, they shouldn’t. The NFL, its owners and franchises, they all have plenty of money. Especially given the likelihood of money being thrown at the Raiders for a new stadium, whether here or in Oakland or elsewhere, there’s no need to pour even more sugar on top of that.