Spring league to bring game, Bandits to Tampa
TAMPA -- Another hopeful spring pro football startup will have a showcase game at Raymond James Stadium in May, with plans to resurrect the Tampa Bay Bandits as a franchise in the All-11 Football League in 2015.
The A11FL announced six of its eight franchises for 2015 on Thursday at a news conference in California, with a quirky offensive wrinkle -- all 11 players are eligible to catch a pass going into any given play. They'll have an ESPN2 audience May 17 at Raymond James (and a second game at the Cotton Bowl in June) to showcase their product for next year's first season.
"I think 30,000 would be a good, reasonable (crowd)," said league president Mike Keller, who has worked with the NFL, USFL and XFL and will charge $30 for all seats at the May game.
The league will be a single entity with central ownership initially, but Keller said it has already talked with multiple potential ownership groups for a 49 percent stake in a Tampa franchise -- "wealthy interested sports individuals," though he cautioned such an investment would be in the "eight-figure range."
The league plans a 14-game schedule plus playoffs in 2015, with rosters of 40-42 players earning standard contracts of between $75,000 and $100,000, Keller said. Coaches will have "NFL and major-college pedigrees," Keller said, and players have the incentive of knowing each week's game check has a 50 percent bonus to the winning team. The league's season comes at a time of year when each NFL team has 80-plus players under contract, so the talent level (like its spring schedule) won't compete with the NFL.
Their model calls for an annual payroll of around $4 million per team, and it's the second time in as many years a team has tried to rekindle the USFL's three-year run in the 1980s, when the Bandits were among its most successful teams. A group had acquired the rights to the league's name in 2012 but never got its version up and running; the All-11 announced three teams that share USFL names: the Bandits, the New Jersey Generals and the L.A. Express.
Keller said the league has secured the legal rights to use its original USFL team names, and colors and logos will be slightly different from the originals.
Mickey Farrell, the Tampa Sports Authority's senior vice president of stadium operations, said Friday that the All-11 league will pay about $150,000 for use of the stadium on May 17, and only the stadium's lower level and one club will be used for the game.