We’re nine weeks into the 2019 Indoor Football League Season schedule, and with each team now having completed the first half of their 14-game slates, I took some time to talk to IFL commissioner Mike Allshouse about what the season has brought and where the league is going from here.
Ferguson: A mid-season chat with IFL Commissioner Mike Allshouse
The IFL currently sits at 10 teams, making it the biggest of the four indoor football leagues we cover at LWOS. The year has had its hiccups, like any, but overall it is in some of the best shape its been in, all things considered.
“I think it’s the most solid ground [we’ve been on] foundationally as a league. I’m very excited about the stability that our ownership groups bring to their teams,” Allshouse said. “If you just look at the roster of depth of not only good quality teams but good-quality ownership groups, I think it’s second-to-none.”
Allshouse referenced the Arizona Rattlers eclipsing 25 years of football and other organizations in the league like Iowa, Green Bay, and Sioux Falls approaching 20 years, too.
He added the history of the Quad City Steamwheelers as well as what Roy Choi has done – re-launching Cedar Rapids and expanding to San Diego – as great things going for the league right now.
“It’s kind of a melting pot of different owners with different backgrounds, but they’re all coming together under the common goal, under the IFL umbrella to make this league the best that it can be,” Allhouse said. “That’s exciting as a commissioner to work for individuals like that and to help guide the ship as we progress with the league.”
That doesn’t mean Allshouse and the IFL are content with where they are now. Not by any means.
He knows that being comfortable is a recipe for disaster when it comes to the sport.
“We all know that these things are cyclical, unfortunately, at the level of professional indoor football,” Allshouse said. “We’re not resting on our royals or satisfied in any way, shape, or form. We’re out working and trying to continue to improve on our business model. Again, it’s good to have a little bit of momentum and have some positives vibes in the league – and we’re certainly excited about that – but there’s a whole lot of work to do and we’re sure as hell excited to get to [it].”
One of the biggest questions that we get at LWOS and around indoor football in general is expansion.
The biggest spot on the rumor mill and maybe the only solid lead through the regular season has been a pop-up article from Oakland News Now calling for the aforementioned Choi to take ownership of a third IFL expansion team in the Oakland area.
Nothing has been confirmed on this and the potential deal is far from done, though that doesn’t stop rapid speculation.
“We’re always talking about explaining our business model and expanding our league,” Allshouse said. “I’ll reserve comment until we have something official to say from the league’s standpoint. We are working on different markets in the West and the Midwest for teams that fit our geographical footprint. We’re really excited about the progress that we’ve made.”
Allshouse went on to say that the league feels really good about the direction that they are heading in – and rightfully so.
It doesn’t take more than a look or two at one of the F.A.N. Show’s Top 10 plays of the week to see that the action on the field is something to be proud of for the IFL.
Not to mention, through the first half of the year, each of the league’s 10 teams have at least one win – something that wasn’t true even two weeks ago.
There’s something to say about the parity in the league this season.
“I think that it’s obviously very important to have competitive games on the field,” Allshouse said. “Sometimes the competitive nature of our games doesn’t reflect on the standings at the end of the day. Indoor football is such a wild and crazy sport. Games can be close, back-and-forth battles and come down to a team getting a lucky bounce at the end of the game to get the win. I think that’s happened for a few of our teams that are a little lower on the standings where they’ve been right in there [and still lost] a couple of games.”
In fact, that happened during the first week of the season.
Sioux Falls (6-1) and Cedar Rapids (1-7) squared off in the U.S. Cellular Center and played a game separated by a slim three points.
The difference came down to a missed field goal on the River Kings’ side and a made kick for the Storm.
“The standings, obviously, are the judge there when it comes to who has the best winning percentage, but when I look at parity, I’m a different judge,” Allshouse said. “When you’re at a game and can feel the excitement in the building and you can see the back and forth nature of a one-score game, that’s what I consider parity. I think we’ve had a number of games this year that reflect that, and I think we’ll have a number of games coming up [that consist of that] as well.”
Among the matchups this weekend is one between the pair of teams at the top of the IFL standings as Arizona and Sioux Falls are set to do battle for the second and final time this season.
The first game ended with the Rattlers pulling away in the second half, though with this meeting being in Sioux Falls, it’s sure to be a good fight.
On the other side of things, the Iowa Barnstormers will travel to Tucson to take on a Sugar Skulls staff that in majority was with the team during their 2018 United Bowl championship run.
The weekend is critical for both teams – Iowa can’t afford another loss or they will risk the possibility of losing home field advantage for the playoffs.
Since they don’t play each other in the regular season and Arizona won’t face another opponent with an above .500 record this season, this could be the last shot the Rattlers have at losing baring a big upset.
“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work this year to get Iowa and Arizona against each other either at home or away or even in a [home-and-home],” Allshouse said. “I know both of those teams are a little disappointed, but I have a feeling it’s a good possibility we’ll see them in a playoff game this year. I’m disappointed the math didn’t work and hopefully we don’t have any instances like that in future seasons.”
The schedule is another one of those hard-hitting topics.
It’s what the league makes the priority of each off-season as they come and go.
“We try to make our schedule the number one priority every off-season,” Allshouse said. Obviously, you’re establishing your roster of teams and things of that nature, but the [biggest] thing going into the next season is getting the schedule out. You’re trying to make it as balanced as possible while also attributing travel factors.”
Although, sometimes arena dates get in the way of making the schedule even better than what it is year-by-year.
“Really, we’re at the mercy of our arena availability dates,” Allshouse said. “We’re not like the NFL or NHL where they own their buildings and can dictate the dates. We’re sharing buildings with hockey, lacrosse, and basketball teams.”
It’s what led to back-to-back matchups for Green Bay and Quad City a few weeks ago and again with the Blizzard and Nebraska in the past two weekend slates.
Sometimes, it just happens to pay off.
Not only did the back-to-back games bring unpredictable action, but they also sparked a run by this year’s breakout team in the Green Bay Blizzard.
The team from title town is 5-3 in what has been their best start since 2012 this season. They were seven points away from winning their fifth straight game this season the last time they played.
“It’s great,” Allshouse said. “I love the ownership group out there. Larry and Kathy are great owners. They’re very important and prominent people in this league. They’ve had a couple of years where it hasn’t really reflected on the standings how well that team has played. Fortunately for Green Bay this year, it’s starting to go there way a little bit.”
Thanks to a favorable coach and some new stars up north, the Blizzard could be on their way to their first playoff appearance since that 2012 season.
“It’s outstanding to see the growth that Corey has had as a young coach after being named interim coach next year and proving his worth,” Allshouse said. “Larry and Kathy named him the full-time head coach and I think he’s proving them right thus far. They’ve got a young exciting quarterback which is great to see in our league, and the defense is playing very well too. It’s really exciting to see Green Bay [this year].”
Overall, in a variety of different ways of looking at it, the league is on the up and up.
Whether it’s the growing from six to 10 teams in a critical off-season, growing parity and action on the field, the IFL is headed in a strong direction.
One last example – YouTube viewership for the league is up from last season.
“We’re up about 15-20% on our viewership average per game,” Allshouse said. “That’s very exciting in a world and in an industry that sometimes struggles for faces to show, I still feel like we’re a very reputable league that is trying to do things the right way. We’re really proud of the [professionalism] from our entire league.”
The league is in its third year as a partner of YouTube, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
There’s no telling what the year will hold – or even the next two months. You’re just going to want to hang on for the ride.
“We’re excited for what the rest of the season holds for us,” Allshouse said. “We’re going to be chasing a championship with the teams that are vying for a United Bowl championship this year, and we’re certainly excited for things that we are working towards for the 2020 season and beyond.”