Alliance gets financial boost

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The fledgling Alliance of American Football got a much-needed financial boost.

Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, has made a $250 million investment in the AAF, the league announced Tuesday.

The league was “running short on cash,” according to The Athletic, which first reported Dundon’s outlay, and was in danger of not making payroll.

Darren Rovell of the Action Network said on Twitter that the league didn’t pay players in Week 1 because of an error.

“AAF players who were told league missed payroll for Week 1 because of a glitch have now been paid,” Rovell wrote, “hours after league announces it essentially sold itself to Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon.”

AAF CEO and co-founder Charlie Ebersol told ProFootballTalk.com Tuesday morning that the quarter-billion-dollar investment from Dundon reflected a decision by Dundon to accelerate the startup league’s ongoing effort to raise funds.

“It was not urgency,” Ebersol said. “If you’re looking as an outside observer, any time we’re raising money it looks like urgency.”

Multiple sources said the AAF’s existence was in jeopardy prior to Dundon’s investment, The Athletic reported.

“The hope and belief now is that years from now, (the AAF) can look back and consider these some scary growing pains, because this league clearly has a chance to become incredibly successful,” one source said, according to The Athletic. “The opening weekend provided a lot of excitement and hope, even beyond the TV numbers. Obviously, though, the original plan did not include a financial crisis in Week 2.”

Dundon, 47, became majority owner of the Hurricanes 13 months ago.

“As a lifelong sports fan and entrepreneur, I’ve always valued the opportunities generated in the ecosystem of sports and entertainment,” Dundon, who will serve as chairman of the AAF’s board, said in a statement released by the AAF. “I’m impressed with The Alliance’s stunning growth in-stadium and across TV, mobile and social media in just these first few weeks.”

CBS’s Feb. 9 debut telecasts drew nearly 3 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the on-the-field product has been a mixed bag though two weeks. The offenses — outside of Orlando — need a bit of work.

While the Apollos’ Garrett Gilbert threw for 393 yards in Orlando’s 37-29 win at San Antonio last weekend, four teams averaged less than five yards per passing attempt in the AAF’s Week 2.

Orlando and Arizona, both 2-0, appear to be the two best teams early on. The Apollos and Hotshots also have the two most efficient passing games — although Arizona struggled in its second game.

Garrett leads the league in passing yards (620, 142 yards better than second place) and completion percentage (64.2). He is also one of two quarterbacks (Birmingham’s Luis Perez is the other) with at least 50 passing attempts and no interceptions.

Arizona’s John Wolford is second in completion percentage (62.7) and leads the league with six touchdown passes. (Garrett is second with four.)

The Hotshots opened with a 38-22 win over Salt Lake but struggled in Week 2 against a Memphis team that lost its first game 26-0. After turning the ball over five times — twice on downs — in the first three quarters, Arizona rallied from a 12-point deficit to edge the Express, 20-18.

The Hotshots, who were the 5-2 preseason AAF favorites, according to sportsbooks, have been supplanted by Orlando. The Apollos were 3-2 at the Westgate SuperBook on Monday, with Arizona at 2-1.

At the other end of the standings, Salt Lake, Memphis, and the Atlanta Legends are all 0-2.

The Stallions have used three different quarterbacks who are a combined 32 of 66 for 273 yards in the two games. Express quarterback Christian Hackenburg has just 189 passing yards on 48 attempts, and Atlanta’s Matt Simms has one touchdown and three interceptions and has averaged 143 yards per game.

Here’s a look at Week 3 in the AAF:

Saturday

Arizona Hotshots at Salt Lake Stallions: The Hotshots will likely be favored. The AAF is still a guessing game for the most part but watch for the line being too high. STALLIONS

Memphis Express at Orlando Apollos: The Apollos look like the class of the league through two games. Memphis couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead at home against Arizona and was shut out on the road in Week 1.  APOLLOS    

Sunday

Birmingham iron at Atlanta Legends: The safest bet in games not involving Orlando or Arizona appears — for now, anyway — to be under the total. UNDER

San Antonio Commanders at San Diego Fleet: See above. Not much offense here. UNDER

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About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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