The Indoor Football League has undergone significant changes the past few years, and you can expect more for the 2014 season.
The league shrunk down to nine teams for 2013 after the unexpected death of Toby SerVoss, who was the owner of the Cheyenne Warriors. League officials expect that number to increase considerably for next season.
“I’ve been in talks with a number of other expansion possibilities, both with existing teams from other leagues that are considering coming to the IFL as well as investors who are interested in forming new teams,” IFL commissioner Robert Loving said Friday. “We were trying to be systematic this year in identifying the locations that fit well geographically with the teams we already have in order to fill in some of the gaps to lessen travel costs for the existing teams.”
Lincoln, Omaha and Sioux City all played in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League this season. All of those could possibly end up in the IFL as the league attempts to create several pods of teams.
There could be one division with those teams and the Nebraska Danger. Another could be created with Green Bay, Chicago, Cedar Rapids and possibly Sioux Falls. There could be a division out west, and possibly one in Texas.
Chicago has been struggling with financial and ownership issues, but Loving said the IFL is on pretty solid ground as a whole.
“Overall the league is very, very stable,” Loving said. “As with all leagues and every season, there are glitches from time to time. There is one team that there is some question about whether they’re going to come back or not. We should know in just a few days.
“I think the IFL is going to be here. We’re here to stay. Next year we may lose a team, but hopefully we’ll gain three or four.”
Loving said teams generally sign league affiliation agreements by Sept. 1, so the IFL expects to be set by then.
“I think you’ll see the league grow next year and continue to grow for years to come,” Loving said.
This season was a good one for the IFL in a lot of ways. Sioux Falls had dominated the league for the past few years. The Storm did win another title with a 43-40 victory over the Danger Saturday night in the United Bowl, but the Storm was 10-4 in the regular season with a 3-4 record on the road after going unbeaten last season.
“We’ve never actually had this type of parity in the league,” Loving said. “We’ve always had some teams run away with it or some teams fall behind early in the year, but this year it’s been close with just a couple of exceptions. Going into the final week of the season there were five or six teams still in the running and we didn’t know until the final week exactly who would be matching up in the playoffs.
Loving said that parity was a great thing for the league.
“I think the parity adds to fan interest,” Loving said. “I know it does for me knowing that you have a large percentage of the teams in the league who could win on any given night. That attracts teams from other leagues. Most of the other leagues, I don’t think they share the same stability and quality of play as we’ve had here.”
The Danger have been a big part of that parity, pushing the Storm right to the wire before falling on Saturday night. Danger general manager Mike McCoy said the talent level in the IFL has soared the past couple of years.
“It’s just really fun to see, and it just gets better and better each year,” McCoy said. “The linemen get bigger and stronger and faster. The quarterbacks throw the ball extremely well at all levels and we have very fast people as well.”
That talent level is evident in the way the Danger roster has changed since its first season in 2011. The Danger brought just a handful of players back from that first team for the 2012 season, but it kept 14 from last year to this year.
“It’s just been fun to watch it explode,” McCoy said. “Guys that made our team the first year couldn’t make our teams last year, and guys that played for us last year couldn’t make our team this year. That’s just a credit to Mike (Davis). It’s just been really fun to see that talent level rise and rise and rise, and I think it comes from working very, very hard to identify those players across the country who can come in and help us.”