NIFL says its fans get big fun for little cash

01/14/00 Rick McCann The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON -- Fans of the new Huntington indoor professional football team will be so close to the action, they will feel like a part of it. And they won’t have to pay a lot to experience it.

The yet-to-be-named Huntington team was awarded a franchise Friday in the National Indoor Football League, a first-year operation based in Lafayette, La., that expects to put between 15 and 19 teams on the field when the season opens March 31.

Huntington has a 14-game schedule with eight home dates at the Huntington Civic Arena, NIFL president Carolyn Shiver said. The Huntington team was placed in the Northeast Division with Wheeling, Johnstown, Pa., and Pittsburgh.

The NIFL Southern Division has teams in Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss., Tupelo, Miss., Lafayette, La., Alexandria, La., and Lake Charles, La. The Central-Western Division includes Kearney, Neb., Rapid City, S.D., Casper, Wyo., Sioux City, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We also have a few teams on the West Coast who are still finishing up and should be coming in this year," Shiver said.

Ticket prices will range from $8 to $20, said David Harrington with Professional Sports Management Ltd., a partnership group that landed the Huntington franchise.

The NIFL plays eight-man football on a field that’s 50 yards long by 28 yards wide and extends right up to the arena walls. Shiver said the league’s marketing pitch is, "50 yards of fun and double the excitement on half the field."

A feature of the league is that fans get to keep any footballs that go into the crowd.

"That adds to the excitement of the games," Shiver said.

Huntington’s coach is expected to be named soon, and former Marshall defensive back Melvin Cunningham said he is thinking about applying for it.

Cunningham, 27, played two seasons in the Arena Football League, the top level of indoor football. He is the head football coach at Tug Valley High School.

"I’m very curious," Cunningham said. "But, no matter who gets this job, this is going to be a great thing for Huntington. If I happen to apply and get it, I think I’d do a pretty good job. It’d be great to be part of something from the ground up."

Indoor football is a fast-paced, high-scoring game that people in Huntington will love, Cunningham said.

Harrington said the fans are truly part of the action.

"If you have a front row seat, you are in the game," Harrington said. "You are on the field, because there are no sidelines."

Player tryouts will begin in late February.

NIFL teams carry 30 players on their rosters and have 23 active for games. The league’s salary scale starts at $200 per game for first-year players. Players are paid $250 a game in their second season and $300 a game in their third season.

With incentives included, Shiver said a player in the league could potentially make as much as $25,000 a season.

Copyright © 2001 The Herald-Dispatch

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