|San Antonio coach Mike Riley directs his troops at AAF training camp|
San Antonio Express-News
Seeking a host city for its inaugural training camps, the Alliance of American Football sent about a dozen people to San Antonio to canvass the hotels and facilities. When the group reported back to the league’s executives, the decision was almost a no-brainer.
Players, coaches and staff from all eight franchises in the newly formed AAF gathered Friday in San Antonio to open month-long training camps leading up to the start of the season Feb. 9.
“We’re a convention. We just happen to be a 30-day-long convention with 1,000 people,” AAF head of business operations Tom Veit said. “We’re spending millions and millions of dollars in San Antonio over 30 days.”
The league wanted to centralize its training camp to put coaches, players, staff and doctors in one place for trades, scrimmages, meetings and medical evaluations, Veit said.
“Quite frankly, you’re Texas. You know football,” Veit said. “Your high school stadiums are better than most Division III college stadiums in the United States. You have so many great training facilities within a short distance. You have the hotels, and you have a community that got behind it. You guys won it by a considerable margin.”
Veit declined to share specific numbers regarding merchandise and ticket sales, but he said the San Antonio Commanders are leading the league in both categories.
That comes as no surprise to Commanders coach Mike Riley, who coached the San Antonio Riders in the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992.
“Back then, we had as good a fan base as anybody in the league,” Riley said, adding that he thinks fans will embrace the new team as well.
The centralized training camp allows teams to engage in joint practices, and Veit said each squad probably will hold one closed scrimmage, along the lines of a preseason game.
Riley said the Commanders have been talking about coordinating an event with the Atlanta Legends.
AAF rosters are required to trim to 52 by the end of camp, but Commanders general manager Daryl Johnston said he is still considering possible additions. Many teams already have made trades, and the end of the NFL regular season has led some players formerly on practice squads to try their hand with the Alliance.
“We’ve had to part ways with some good guys we’ve spent several months with,” Johnston said. “That’s been the hard part for the last couple of weeks. The one thing I’m proud of is we never had to let anybody go from our roster until they had the opportunity to step on the field and compete for a position. That was our goal when we started this thing back in August.”