Ready for some indoor football?

11/29/00 Yet another new league hopes to field a team in Huntington beginning in April

By DAVE WELLMAN - The Herald-Dispatch

 

 

Cities in new league

Huntington is among 18 cities NIFL owners believe are likely to play in the league’s first season in 2001. The others are Binghamton, N.Y.; Philadelphia; Erie, Pa.; Johnstown, Pa.; Wheeling; Asheville, N.C.; Pittsburgh; Toledo; Louisville; Tupelo, Miss.; Mobile, Ala.; Lake Charles, La.; Alexandria, La.; Texarcana, Ark.; Jackson, Miss.; Wichita Falls, Texas; and Austin, Texas.

HUNTINGTON -- Next April, as spring brings life to the outdoors, football will bring Tri-Staters indoors.

At least that’s the hope of National Indoor Football League officials, who expect Huntington to field a team in their new league in 2001. Former Marshall University players are eligible to try out for the squad, either as players or coaches.

"Anytime there’s coaching involved, I’m ready," said Huntington resident Reggie Giles, a 33-year-old Atlanta native and Marshall’s career interception leader with 19. "But I’m too old to play. I’d hurt myself."

David Harrington, Huntington’s director of administration and finance, said Tuesday the NIFL, based in Lafayette, La., "has approached us to become a part of that league."

"They’ve sent us a sample lease, which the Civic Arena is looking at right now," Harrington said.

Huntington is listed as one of 18 cities the league is fairly certain will field teams next year, according to Tina Johnson in NIFL operations. She said Huntington was recommended by folks in Johnstown, Pa., which competed against the Huntington Blizzard in the East Coast Hockey League.

The league could have as many as 27 teams in its first year, Johnson said.

"We’re holding out for a Midwest group, which could bring in another nine teams," she said.

The season would include a 16-game schedule to be played from April through August. The eight home games would give a financial boost to the Civic Arena, which lost the Blizzard after the 1999-2000 season. Normally, summer attractions are few at the Civic Arena.

"I think it would be great," said new Civic Arena director Pete Wenzel, who’s been on the job for five weeks since arriving in Huntington from Evansville, Ind. "It provides us with an anchor sports tenant, which we don’t have now that hockey’s gone. This is a good sports town and this provides sports entertainment when we’re normally slow."

Johnson said each team will have a 30-player retaining roster, with 23 active for a given game. Players would earn $200 to $300 per game, with incentive packages available.

The team would be financed with local funds, Harrington said. He said some Huntington business people have shown interest in the team.

"It’s going to require raising some capital to put this together," Harrington said. "We’re trying to drum up interest."

In 1999, both the Indoor Football League and the indoor arenafootball2 league considered Huntington as a possible expansion site. Nothing developed, and af2 -- the minor league of the popular Arena Football League -- has since acquired the IFL.

Johnson and Carolyn Shiver, who previously owned a team in the Indoor Professional Football League and is the NIFL’s chief executive officer, started the new league.

"She wasn’t happy with the growth of the league," Johnson said of Shiver. "We sat down and said, ‘Why can’t we do this with a larger group of people?’ "

Johnson, who describes herself as a football fanatic, said she’s confident all of the interested cities -- including Huntington -- will succeed in the NIFL.

"That whole region, they really want indoor football," she said, referring to the 18 cities. "I’m very excited about the way the communities have reached out to accept it, with all of the local investors. We’re ready to start marketing, to tell the communities they’re going to have indoor football."

Giles fully expects former Marshall players, including some current seniors, to give the NIFL a try.

"I think when there’s money involved, they’ll play," he said. "And, everybody doesn’t get a shot. Sometimes this could lead to other things."

Johnson said the league continues to negotiate with cities in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and even New Mexico. Obviously, the NIFL would be divided into divisions where competing teams could travel to games by bus.

The Canadian Football League has signed an agreement to join the league in 2002, Johnson said, with 40 teams competing. The eventual goal is to crown a Canadian champion and a U.S. champion, with those two meeting for an international title.

 

Copyright © 2000 The Herald-Dispatch


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