When Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian announced the formation of the Alliance of American Football league last spring and named San Antonio as one of eight founding cities, many in the city almost immediately predicted failure.
Those predictions were nearly realized this week per a report in The Athletic that stated the AAF was in danger of not meeting payroll obligations in the season’s first week and needed a $250 million investment/bailout from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes majority owner Tom Dundon to stay afloat.
San Antonio Commanders team president Vic Gregovits did not immediately respond to messages left for him Tuesday morning. Team spokesman Cody Bays said he thought everyone employed by the Commanders had been paid.
“As far as I know,” Bays said.
Ebersol refuted The Athletic‘s report to the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday, saying the league “always had the money to meet payroll and has never been in any financial jeopardy.”
“We are a start-up, and start-ups raise money in pieces – there’s a Series A piece, Series B, Series C, etc,” Ebersol told the paper. “After the success of the first week, we had a number of investors come to us and offer us all kinds of different investments. Tom Dundon showed up and said, ‘Do you want to continue to raise Series B, Series C, and Series D or do you want to raise Series Infinity right now and be taken care of from now on.’ That was an offer I was not going to refuse.”
The league issued a press release confirming Dundon’s investment Tuesday saying he would immediately become the chairman of the Alliance board of directors. The press release did not mention whether any paychecks had been delayed.
There are no individual owners in the AAF. All teams are funded by the league and its investors but operated individually by independent management teams.
“As a lifelong sports fan and entrepreneur, I’ve always valued the opportunities generated in the ecosystem of sports and entertainment,” Dundon said in the release. “I’m impressed with the Alliance’s stunning growth in-stadium and across TV, mobile and social media in just these first few weeks.”
Alliance head of business operations Tom Veit said he could not comment when reached by phone Tuesday morning and referred to the press release.
“Since the beginning, it has been crucial that the foundation of the Alliance be set with world-class partners and Tom Dundon represents just that,” Ebersol said in the release. “Tom, Bill Polian, and I will work with our great team at the Alliance to expand our football operations and technology business.
The league debuted Feb. 9-10 to positive reviews and eye-opening television ratings outperforming a high-profile prime time NBA matchup.
The Commanders started the season with a pair of home games that produced the two largest crowds in the brief history of the league. San Antonio went 1-1 in those games averaging 28,516 fans per game. The team travels to San Diego this week.
There have been a dozen other failed pro football franchises in San Antonio since the mid-1970s, including the Wings of the World Football League (1975), the Gunslingers of the United States Football League (1984-85), the Riders of the World League of American Football (1991-92) , the Force of the Arena Football League (1992), the Texans of the Canadian Football League (1995), and the Talons (2012-14) of the AFL.