The League: Part 2 - What Is Right With Semi-ProNone posted by: by Eric Satterwhite on Thu Mar 26 2009
The Conclusion Of The Two Part Series Which Takes A Critical Look At How Much Pro Is Really In Semi-Pro
Semi-pro football in Wisconsin. It's a love / hate kind of thing. People in Wisconsin love football - they hate semi-pro. I pointed out a number of the reasons in part one of this series. But lets refresh your memory - There are more semi-pro teams and leagues in Wisconsin than just about every other state in the country. However, very few people in the state know about them let alone care about them enough to come see a game. There a few reasons that contribute to the bulk of the problem, and they are:
- Over Aggressiveness - Too many people making too many hasty decisions too fast.
- Price - It really shouldn't cost that much. Buy quick books or something!
- Lack of professionalism - It's a level of football for post - High School athletes, but sometimes it is hard to tell
- Poor Fields - Football is played on grass under lights, not in a mud puddle
- The competition - does Milwaukee really need 17 teams?
With all of these things so wrong with semi-pro ball, how does the sport survive? What keeps it going? I'm glad you asked! There are a lot of positive things going for semi-pro and the IFL in particular. It may just be a pipe dream, but it is one that is almost a reality. It would seem that every year we get a little bit closer to making it happen but there is always a hiccup in the system that holds everything down. But with out further ado, whats right with semi-pro:
The Front Office
The Front office seems to take a lot of heat for a variety of reasons. Most of them were listed in part one of this series. The League has this reputation of "The Broken Promise". As stated in Part 1, The front office has a ready, FIRE, aim mentality with a lot of things. People get excited when something big is going to happen and just want to tell people. We do it all the time.
The league is always trying to move forward and do something to better promote the league and bring more money to the teams. Sometimes the ideas are pretty big, a lot of work is involved, and there are many possible outcomes. When one of the possible outcomes never happens, and no one gets an explanation as to why, It's a "broken promise".
Forget This! You're on your own!
Now I've had the opportunity of doing some work with the front office. If you didn't know, I did the league magazine - Smashmouth...Yep, I did that. It is a lot of work and I could have very easily just backed out and said - Forget This! You're on your own. And that would have been another broken promise on the head of the league. Even though it would have not been the fault of the league. However, the finger would have been pointed.This is usually what happens. The league is raring to go, throws the work at someone, makes an announcement, and then whoever had the project, backs out at the last minute.
There are two sides to every story. It is unfortunate that the league get criticized for trying to progress the league. The front office wants to succeed and they do what they can to do so. Many times when you rely on other people to help you do some of these things, they let you down. However, as the old adage goes - If you want something done right - do it yourself.
This is a good move, And I like it - I like it a lot
Wait, it gets better. At the end of the 2008 season, the IFL appointed Dan Greene to the list officials as the Director of Operations. Dan is the former own of the Spring city Cyclones - one of the worst team in 2008 IFL season. However, the teams performance is in no shape or form a reflection on Mr. Greene. He's a smart guy with a lot of common sense who loves to play devil's advocate. And in classic rough and tumble football guy fashion, never pulls punches. Dan's job is mainly to make sure all of the things pointed out in Part One of this series don't happen. He brings an interesting perspective to the front office in that he has been both a player and an owner under the current Front Office management of the the league and really understands what needs to be fixed from a IFL franchise stand point.
This is a good move, and I like it. I like it a lot.
Yes, the field itself is junk, but lets face it. The league went out and struck a deal with this place in an effort, again, to progress the league. This place has it all - Multiple fields for teams to practice / warm up on, locker rooms so we aren't walking around in our skivvies in the parking lot, a PA system complete with announcer, the concessions people even grill up burgers and stuff! Whats not to love about this place?
If you have never been inside, they have much the same inside. The Hitmen even had a couple of our combines there on their indoor courts. From a spectator stand point, the MCSC, is awesome. As a player...the field is less than ideal and as the season wears on it can be increase the risk of serious injury. Aside from the lack of up-keep on the field, the "Complex" as a whole is pretty cool.
Before the sports complex, the league played all of it's games behind Rucker's Sports bar. We played in the outfield of a baseball diamond. On one side of the field, you would get road rash from the dirt of the infield and run into spectators who didn't realize they were too close. And on the other side it was like playing arena ball against the wall - But this wall was a chain link fence. The sports complex was a big improvement
One of the problems with Semi-Pro football is that players treat it like bar league softball. They just want to show up for games and play. I'm sorry but football is not a sport you can just show up for and play. Especially when other teams do practice and want to win. You will be embarrassed. And no one likes to be embarrassed. So the simple solution - Don't show up for the game.The IFL has made significant improvements on this black eye to the sport. Teams are evaluated and scrutinized before they are allowed to compete in the IFL. Teams are stable, established and competitive. Despite the over abundance of players and teams in the area, the IFL doesn't have a lot of low level teams anymore. The level of talent in the league is pretty level. In 2009 there were only 2 teams that were at the bottom of the barrel and one of those was a first year start up team. Everyone else was busy duking it out for playoff spots! Teams / leagues looking in at the IFL from the outside like to throw stones, but thus far every team that moves in to the IFL from a different league took some hard bumps before they started to clean up their act and learn to actually play football. Competition in the IFL is tough - And that's the way we like it.
The Professional League
On the flip side of part 1, the "professional" aspect of the IFL is one of it's shining points. The front office is trying to smooth things over from years past of poorly formed leagues and teams who have left a bad taste in the proverbial mouth of football fans. For what it is, The IFL is a small league. 10-15 teams on a given year that is central to the Wisconsin / Illinois area. For such a small league, being around for less than 20 years, the IFL has made huge strides in the minor league ranks. 2 out of the 3 head officials of the IFL have already been inducted in to Halls of fame. The owner into the American Football Association and the commish to the Minor Football League News Hall of Fame. Agree with the vote or not - that is impressive.
And it is a snowball effect. When things like this happen, people take notice. It attracts better football teams, players and talent to the league. This means a better end product will end up on the field and it , god willing, just keeps on building. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Just because there is money involved doesn't make a player or a team or a league professional. Take a look at some of the things the IFL has done over the years:
- League merchandise, complete with sales van
- Televised games
- An official League Magazine ( compliments of moi )
- League highlight films
- Awards Banquette - complete with trophies, medals and plaques
- Annual Hall of fame compete with inductee Rings
- An annual All-Star Game
- And many other things in the works
I always get the feeling as if the IFL is trying to 1-up all the other leagues. They should, it's a competitive market.
The Ban List
It's true. There is a list of people and teams that the league will not do any kind of business and encourages other teams/players to do the same. However, as I pointed out before, there are two sides to every story. The IFL doesn't just Kick a team out because they can. Lets take a look at the recent list
- Milwaukee Bulldogs
- Franklin Outlaws
- Madison Seminoles
- Oak Creek Renegades
- Lake Country Cyclones
- McHenry County Pirates
With the exception of the Renegades, who never actually played a game in the IFL, the teams listed were good teams. 3 on the list were Ironbowl Contenders and 2 on the list actually hold league titles. Let's Kick them out of the league! That makes sense, right? No...No it doesn't. Again, there are two sides to every story. Something was done, something was said that the league saw as grounds for expulsion.
In many of the cases, it came down to money. The league has a deadline for certain fees. A lot of times, teams like to wait until the day of the deadline to inquire about the fee in question. Too busy with the questions and not paying is grounds for expulsion. People don't like being called on doing something they know they shouldn't be doing, take stuff like that personally and react. It's like getting caught speeding. You know you shouldn't do it, but your first reaction is to deny it or come up with a reason why you were doing it in hopes the cop will let you of. If you didn't want the ticket, you shouldn't have been speeding. In 2009 The McHenry County Pirates were kicked out for that very reason.
We're Not paying until we get more answers.
As a result, the league responded by saying - You don't have to pay, We'll just find a team to fill your spot. Obviously not the answer the Pirates were looking for. So they reacted. A series of emails transpired and the pirates more or less, tried to steal any team they could from the IFL to start their own league. No one actually left and I haven't heard of a new league - So I'm going to guess that didn't go so well.
IFL - 1 | Pirates - 0
In the case of the Oak Creek Renegades...They didn't have a team! I don't remember the exact number, but they had less than 13-15 players at their debut scrimmage game. Sure it was a scrimmage, but if I'm the owner of a new team, and it were my first display to the league, the league owner is going to be there and I know I'm still being evaluated - I'm going to try to make a statement. Or a positive first impression at the very least. So they got kicked out.
The owner of the Renegades was upset mainly because they had paid the non-refundable league fees and never got the chance to give it a go in the regular season. Based on the poor showing, and terrible performance by the players who did show and the coaches feedback on the team, this was the right move. If it didn't happen in the pre-season, it would have happened in the regular season and it would have had far worse repercussions than what it did in the pre-season
The down side to this was that the schedule had already been done, fields had been secured and teams were basically out of luck if they had the Renegades on their schedule. The owner of the renegades was obviously not happy and shot around some emails and did some posts on a message board in an effort to rally people behind him. He's still out of the league and plays in an 8-man football league, which is perfect since he only had 13 players!
IFL - 2 | Renegads - 0
The ban list may have a bad reputation as the league's personal vendetta list, but it's not. I think its a good thing for the league. Keep the riff-raff out and let the rest of us have some fun with out the drama and play some good football. That's why we are here.
Strange how the good reasons are the bad reasons. Isn't that how most things are? Good + Bad, The Ying + The Yang. You can't have dark with out light. Can the league be on the right path and the wrong path at the same time?