Things have not gone well for the AAL playoffs this year. But now a new issue has come up.
It is still undecided whether the AAL championship should be held at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte or at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. Honestly, this should be a no brainer and played in the home of the Roughriders.
While both these teams finished the regular season undefeated, there is no clear cut way to really decide who was better. The Roughriders hold more statistical advantages and played more games, but the Energy had a tougher schedule when they did play. If you really want to hash it out just on stats alone, I might lean slightly towards playing it in Charlotte.
But keeping all factors in play shifts it dramatically to West Virginia, and those other factors can help the league end the season on a positive note. The image of the AAL has been tarnished a bit historically in the playoffs. Last year there was a struggle with the playoff schedule when the Georgia Doom decided to skip it. This year isn’t better.
We’ve talked about the bye and the controversy in past articles. As the one who wrote that story, I got a chance to speak directly with Coach Bryson, AAL Commissioner Tony Zefiretto and message back and forth with other people around the league about how that situation went and it could have been handled better from the league by working on publishing stories on their website. Fan response in the forums also escalated things to a point I personally think was too far, but it consistent with the active response of fans on social media.
The first round games played were full of blowouts, with maybe the Flight giving the most respectable performance of the teams that played. Indianapolis lost big to West Michigan again and Cape Fear couldn’t muster anything offensively given their quarterback and offensive line problems.
Second round wasn’t much better. West Michigan wasn’t able to recreate the drama of the best AAL game this season when they lost by a touchdown in the final moments of their April 20 game in Muskegon. Instead they only put six points on the board in the playoffs. The Battle of the Carolinas was a turnover-filled nonsense that showed that the Energy was still kicking the rust off and the Havoc was spent after a way too short turnaround.
In that Southern Conference final, the game was delayed to fix the turf. A number of photos from the game showed the playing surface was as wrinkled as the sheets you forgot in the dryer. Safety concerns are legitimate and have to be addressed.
But I think the biggest reason why you want to put this in Wheeling has to deal with the other gameday functions that a lot of people take for granted. West Virginia has their own broadcast crew, graphics and replay packages for fans to watch on a dedicated webstream. They have a stat crew and the only team to regularly post box scores for their games. Their social media crew is on point and professional and will add graphics and opportunities to keep fans entertained that cannot make the trip.
I’ve really enjoyed what the Roughriders have been able to do this season in those broadcast functions and they are the best in the league with it. This isn’t to discredit the other good crews (I was actually really impressed with what the Cowboyz were able to do this season with it), but West Virginia has been the most consistent and most professional. That’s the kind of environment you want to promote given all the issues the AAL has had so far.
With the death of Jack Bowman, the AAL Championship is now played for a trophy in his name. With this being the first presentation of that memorial trophy, wouldn’t you want your best crews presenting it? The highest quality video that could be reused for social media posting throughout the offseason for both the teams and the league? This can be done in West Virginia.
The other big thing is that the vocal fans of the AAL have definitively said WesBanco should have this game. Some are people from the Wheeling area knowing the community will go all out for it, others are those who objectively look at the examples given above. Some are upset and think that taking the bye should disqualify the Energy from hosting the title game or some that just like it better than Charlotte. But whatever their reasoning, the most vocal indoor football fans in the country have made up their minds in support of West Virginia.
This could be an opportunity for AAL ownership and staff to go along with the flow. I’d be honestly really concerned for the league if they decided to go against the grain on something like this because of the lack of guarantee over where the game would be held so far. Let the AAL championship take those country roads home to West Virginia and we can get started on talking about the game itself instead.