By: Matthew Hester
KNOXVILLE, TN (June 14, 2012) – With the inaugural season coming to a close and their first playoffs on the horizon, the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) looks back at a successful 2012 season while the planning for the 2013 season is well underway.
Built on a foundation of creating a positive experience for the game of indoor football by fostering quality football with competitively balanced teams comprised of strong ownership that provides not only league direction but creates strong local community partnerships with professional athletes who serve as role-models on and off the field.
Featuring a combined eight division titles and five championships from prior years and leagues, competition amongst the six charter members of the PIFL made every game in its inaugural season seem like it was a battle to the end. Through the first 33 games, 17 games were completed by a margin of less than 7 points with 5 games going down to the last play and another five were settled in the last minute.
Even the expansion Knoxville Nighthawks, who despite finishing in last place quite possibly gave the league it’s game of year when back on May 5th the Hawks needed double overtime to gain the franchise’s first ever victory upending the Alabama Hammers 64-61. In fact, four of their last five games have been determined by 3 points or less another strong indicator of the competitiveness of the PIFL.
On that very same day the in-state rivalry between the Columbus Lions and Albany Panthers provided another one of the league’s top moments when the first-place Panthers overcame a 15-point 4th quarter deficit to pull ahead with 18 seconds remaining only for Lions kicker Trey Crum to nail a game-winning 54-yard field goal as time expired.
In addition to the competitive play on the field, the PIFL will conclude year one of its new partnership with the NFL. At the start of the season, the PIFL and National Football League (NFL) announced the partnership agreement for the development of officials for the 2012 indoor football season in which the NFL recruited, trained, evaluated, and developed PIFL officials for the entirety of the inaugural season.
“The involvement of the NFL has elevated the quality of our officiating this season,” says Dan Blum PIFL’s Coordinator of Officials. “We expect our officials to perform at a high level, and under the guidance of the NFL we’re well on our way to attain our goal.”
One important element to the strong competitiveness in the league was due to the PIFL being one of the few leagues’ that completed its entire season without the use of replacement teams. “The PIFL’s competitive intensity on the field was matched with similar intensity “off the field” with all the teams focused on working together on the business challenges and sharing “best business practices,” said John Hargrove, member of the PIFL Executive Committee.
The close competition amongst its teams translated into higher attendance numbers with some teams setting new franchise high’s in attendance. In Albany, the Panthers gained home-field advantage thanks to a consistent gate above 5,000 fans per game while the Richmond Raiders maintained a perfect home record in large part to drawing an average of over 3,000 fans through their first five games.
Organizations within the PIFL not only strive for excellence on the field, but off the field as well. In Louisiana, players serve as role models to many in their local community just like QB Freddie Harrison who is also serves as the high school football coach for Washington Marion. Now in his seventh season under center, third as the head football coach for Washington Marion, Harrison is on the brink of leading the Bucs back to the playoffs for their eighth consecutive season.
In Columbus, the Lions just concluded their fifth season of their Youth Indoor Football League (YIFL) which allows 9-14 year olds to experience first-hand, the fast-paced and thrilling action that makes indoor football one of the country’s fastest growing sports. The program allows the Lions coaches and players to work hand-in-hand with several area youth football coaches to adapt professional rules to meet youth abilities. The result is a game that focuses heavily on having fun and developing skills in a condensed 8-on-8 indoor football format. Over 200 participants signed up in 2012 and demand is already high as the Lions will also be holding the annual Summer Youth Camps on July 23-25.
“When comparing indoor football leagues, being a part of one that insists on local community partnerships cannot be understated,” says Jeff Gonos, PIFL Director of Compliance. “Each PIFL owner understands their charge of creating such local partnerships.”
On Saturday, two clubs will be closing out their season while four others will continue the chase for championship glory. On Saturday June 23rd, Albany will host the PIFL’s first ever playoff game while the Raiders will close out the first round of play when they host their franchise’s first ever playoff game on Monday June 25th.
With the first weekend of July serving as the Championship Weekend, the PIFL has begun laying the foundation for the start of the 2013 season. In late August the league will host its Kickoff Meeting where it will discuss topics such as the growth of the league in regards to expansion, develop the NFL partnership with officiating, and improve the quality and safety of game play.
The six-team league includes the Richmond (VA) Raiders, Knoxville (TN) Nighthawks, Columbus (GA) Lions, Albany (GA) Panthers, Alabama (Huntsville, AL) Hammers, and Louisiana (Lake Charles, LA) Swashbucklers. For more information about the PIFL, log on to www.proifl.com.