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Spurrier named first coach of new Alliance league

By
The Sports Xchange
Former Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier. File photo by Michael Bush/UPI
Former Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier. File photo by Michael Bush/UPI | License Photo

The Alliance for American Football earned some instant name recognition on Saturday by announcing the legendary Steve Spurrier as the league's first head coach.

Spurrier, who guided the University of Florida to a national championship and had a successful run at South Carolina sandwiched around a two-year stint in the NFL, will coach a team based in Orlando, Fla.

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The AAF is a new league that is scheduled to debut in February 2019, six days after the Super Bowl LIII is played in Atlanta.

Spurrier's return to football was announced during an appearance on "CBS This Morning: Saturday" with league co-founder Charlie Ebersol and former Pittsburg Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, one of several former NFL players affiliated with the league.

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"We brought in the best players and the best coaches to be at the top of the organization," Ebersol said. "We wanted to give fans not just an opportunity to see great football but to see what would happen if you brought the players and the league together."

Spurrier immediately raises the profile of the eight-team league, particularly in the Sunshine State.

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A Heisman Trophy winner as a quarterback at Florida in 1966, he amassed a 122-27-1 record in 12 seasons at his alma mater, leading the Gators to 11 bowl games and a national title in 1996.

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Although Spurrier enjoyed much less success at the NFL level, going 12-20 in two seasons (2002-03) with the Washington Redskins, he said he expects the new league to feature high-caliber football.

"It's a fine line between who makes a team and who doesn't in the NFL. We don't have a minor league of professional football," Spurrier said. "Those players get a chance to continue playing even if they don't play at the highest level and then maybe someday they play well enough to go to the highest level."

Spurrier has experience in such a venture, serving as head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League from 1983-85 before landing his first college head coaching job at Duke.

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The 72-year-old Spurrier returned to the collegiate ranks at South Carolina in 2005 and led the Gamecocks to nine bowl games in 11 seasons. He abruptly walked away from the sport six games into the 2015 season, announcing his retirement effectively immediately.

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In 26 seasons as a college head coach, Spurrier compiled a 228-89-2 record, including an 11-10 mark in bowl games.

The Alliance has big names and funding behind it. Former NFL general manager and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian is a founder of the eight-team league with television and film producer Ebersol, while former NFL players Jared Allen, Troy Polamalu, Justin Tuck and Ward are also involved.

The opening game will be televised in prime time on CBS, as will the championship game during the weekend of April 26-28, while other games during the season will be telecast on CBS Sports Network.

The league will own the teams with funding from the Founders Fund, Slow Ventures, The Chernin Group, Adrian Fenty and Charles King's M Ventures, Keith Rabois and Allen.

Allen, along with Polamalu and Ward, will be player relations executives, while Tuck will serve on the player engagement board of advisors.

The plan is for each team to have 50 players, and games will have no kickoffs or extra points. After touchdowns, a two-point conversion try will be required. Instead of a kickoff, the next possession will start from the 25-yard line.

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Replacing possible onside kicks late in games, the team behind will have one shot on "fourth-and-10" from their own 35-yard line to continue the possession.

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