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Former AAF Spring league owner now wants $70 million back

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The owner of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football Spring League now not only wants to be off the hook in bankruptcy proceedings, but has filed to try to get his entire $70 million investment back.

However, we’ve learned, that it’s not going to be easy for either one.

First, the story was broken Tuesday afternoon by sports business writer Daniel Kaplan of the Athletic, who learned from sources about the court filing on behalf of Thomas Dundon, billionaire owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, that he wants his investment back:

According to Kaplan, Dundon argues in the legal filing that the AAF led by Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian lied to him about the actual debt of the league to the tune of an additional $13 million that they had not disclosed. He further alleged that the actual price tag to keep the league in business for year one was closer to $120 million not the $70 million that he was attempting to keep the league afloat with in February and March.

As we have written repeatedly, the AAF shut down on April 2nd, eight weeks into its inaugural season, with Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos having the best record and being the odds-on favorite to win the first championship.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the University of Central Florida, and Spectrum Stadium on their campus, are still seeking to get payment on over $1 million for use of their facility in February and March for Apollos home games.

The AAF has told the bankruptcy court that they have $48 million in liabilities and only $11 million in assets.

A source with knowledge of what Ebersol, Polian and the AAF intend to continue to argue told F.F.I. recently, that Dundon is going to have great difficulty convincing the bankruptcy court that he isn’t responsible for the debts.

This is for several obvious reasons.

Most prominently, because Dundon assumed all of the operational costs of the Spring league, when he announced himself as the Chairman of the Board in early February, including making payroll.

Second, he repeatedly gave interviews publicly stating that he intended to infuse up to total of $250 million into the league to keep it afloat for three seasons. Thus, indicating that he clearly had money and plan to pay debts, to do so.

Thirdly, it’s also well known that Dundon had the ability to buy the Carolina Hurricanes in January of 2018, and therefore, obviously, has tens of millions of dollars in cash flow at his disposal to begin paying off AAF creditors.

There are also multiple lawsuits pending against Ebersol, Dundon and the AAF on behalf of former coaches players and employees, as well. More than 1,000 full-time people were put out of work less than four months into their employment, when Dundon shut the league down.

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Many state fans still without ACC Network

ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference launched the 24-hour ACC television network in the middle of last month. But for all of the fanfare and build up, there are still hundreds of thousands of football fans in the state of Florida who are without the channel headed into the first weekend of September.

And now, that’s about to be problematic with a scheduled Saturday triple-header of games that will involve FSU, the Miami Hurricanes and the USF Bull’s all being televised, exclusively on the channel.

Now, the ACC and ESPN announced Thursday night a deal with Cox Communications, which serves a good portion of the state and will obviously make their customers happy:

The ACC, led by Commissioner John Swofford (above),ย  also previously announced a deal with Spectrum Communications to carry the ACC Network. That is a significant amount of coverage in Florida.

And, the ACCN is also available through satellite services like DirecTV and Dish. Plus, it’s available on streaming services like Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV for individual fees.

However, while the ACC and ESPN continue to update new deals being done with providers, customers with Comcast / Xfinity, Frontier Communications and AT&T U-verse are still waiting for the channel. And, those outlets represent hundreds of thousands of college football fans in the combined markets of Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Fans in those markets with those providers already missed last Thursday night’s opener with #1 Clemson and Georgia Tech, were without last Saturday’s ACCN games, and more importantly, possibly won’t to see their favorite school on the triple header Saturday.

That starts with USF at Georgia Tech at 2 p.m., followed by Florida State hosting Louisiana-Monroe and capped Saturday night by Miami’s opening conference game at North Carolina.

All to be shown exclusively, on the ACCN.

The crux of the problem is the amount of money that ESPN is looking to recoup from each individual customer of the provider. It is the same model that they have followed previously with the SEC Network and with their biggest channels like ESPN and ESPN2.

ESPN and the SEC had much more leverage five years ago at the launch of that television network with a much more rabid following. The SEC Network was picked up by every major provider in the state of Florida before games were ever played in the 2014 season.

Again, ESPN and the conference are negotiating non-stop and may very well get deals with the above major providers that are still holding out. But, it’s entirely possible that when the Noles, the Canes and the Bulls hit the field Saturday many of their fans in the state will not be able to see it, on TV, an app, nothing.

You’ve been warned.

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AAC Commissioner Aresco says they’ll do away with divisions

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There has been speculation as to whether the American Athletic Conference would try to land a 12-team and continue to play with two divisions with a Championship game? On Tuesday afternoon, Commissioner Mike Aresco made clear that the 12-team conference isn’t necessary and divisions will be going away.

Appearing on Memphis sports adio station 92.9 FM ESPN, Aresco told their afternoon show that the conference that is home to USF and UCF will no longer split into two six team divisions after 2019:

This decision is necessitated by the departure of the UConn Huskies from the American back to their previous conference, the Big East starting next fall. That is leaving the American with an odd number (11) of teams after this year.

We wrote previously about what the possible scenarios would be for the American to keep its important Conference Championship game, which the UCF Knights have hosted and won the last two years over the Memphis Tigers.

The American has two very real concerns at the forefront on 12 members and keeping the title game:

First, ESPN could alter the newly announced 12 year deal that is supposed to represent at least $7 million in revenue per school annually. That deal has a clause that says, if the AAC loses a member(s), then the rights fee can be decreased by the network.

Further, the NCAA has mandated that in order for the conference to play a championship game, which the American has had for the last four years, it must have 12 schools or play an equal round robin schedule.

Obviously, the AAC cannot equally play a round-robin schedule with 11 teams with only nine conference games and that’s where Aresco is describing applying for a waiver, if they do not play in divisions.

If the conference reverses course and chooses to expand, there is a logical 12th member.

It seems a simple solution would be to invite UAB, which brought back FBS football two years ago and won the Conference USA Championship game and its bowl game in 2018. The Blazers also have a solid menโ€™s basketball program, as well.

Plus, Birmingham is a significant television market and is in the Southeast footprint with other programs like Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina, and the Bulls and the Knights. All of those American programs have also been previously in Conference USA with the Blazers.

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