Spokane’s 2015 season ended Saturday night and the clock is ticking on the franchise to finalize a decision concerning 2016 and beyond.
It doesn’t sound like the waiting game will last long. Close observers and several veteran Shock players expect the team will join the Indoor Football League, ending a six-year association with the Arena Football League.
Spokane has been approved by the IFL’s expansion board “if we choose to pursue that for 2016, pending a league affiliation agreement being handed in,” Shock director of operations Ryan Eucker said. The paperwork hasn’t been submitted, he said. The deadline is Sept. 1.
“We want to make a decision in a timely fashion and let our fans and everyone involved know what our plans are,” Eucker said.
Shortly after Spokane’s 72-41 playoff loss to Arizona, several players went to social media to express concerns about switching leagues.
Kicker Taylor Rowan on Facebook thanked Spokane for its support during his six years with the team. He added: “Seeing an organization like Spokane move to a lower league with less talent isn’t only a hit to all the players and coaching staff but a hit on this league and most of all the greatest fans in the AFL!
“I love this city and it’s a shame you have to get a whole new roster next year!”
Defensive lineman James Ruffin wrote on the Shock’s Facebook page: “You think that you will just go to the IFL and dominate that’s not how it works. You should want to play against the best and beat the best, not drop to another league with (a) terrible product and get worked in that league, too.
“Football players shouldn’t even entertain the idea of playing for $200 based off risk, have fun with that boring league.”
The AFL is the highest level of arena football, with players typically earning $875 per game. The league has been around for 28 seasons, re-launching in 2010 after a one-year hiatus, but it has struggled to find stability. Las Vegas and New Orleans recently folded, leaving the AFL with 10 teams. Shock owner Nader Naini last week voiced disappointment with several aspects of AFL operations.
Spokane won the AFL title in 2010 but has only won one postseason game since in four playoff appearances. The Shock finished 2015 with a 7-12 record, worst in franchise history.
The 10-team IFL, which includes the Tri-Cities Fever, pays players $250 per game. It’s one of several smaller arena leagues, similar to the arenafootball2. Spokane dominated af2 from 2006-09 before moving into the AFL.
“At this point, it would be improper to comment about any team that is associated with another league,” IFL commissioner Mike Allshouse said.
Offensive lineman Patrick Afif authored an emotional Facebook post after what was probably the final game of his career. He thanked “the best fans ever” and noted that he’d play “any day of the week” for head coach Andy Olson and line coach Travis Crusenberry.
“As a player and a fan it saddens me that this organization is leaving the AFL,” Afif wrote. “It will be a big hit to this league. I wish this city could buy the team like Green Bay. Because this city deserves better than the IFL.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.