Adam Shackleford called it a working vacation.
Turns out his phone couldn’t keep up as Shackleford, back in the saddle as Spokane’s head coach, began putting pieces in place as the 10-year-old organization drops from the Arena Football League to the Indoor Football League.
He came back with 11 players under contract and a new phone.
“I literally wore out my phone,” said Shackleford, shortly after a Tuesday press conference at the Spokane Arena in which the Shock formally announced they’re changing leagues. “I had to upgrade to an iPhone 6 on the trip (to Florida). I worked like I was at home. We’d go to the beach, but as long as I have my phone and iPad I can work anywhere.”
It’s round two for Shackleford, who guided Spokane to a 49-8 record and one championship in arenafootball2 from 2007-09. Passed over for the job in 2010 when the Shock moved into the AFL, Shackleford took over as coach of the IFL Tri-Cities Fever for the last six seasons but the family maintained their home in Spokane.
“I had a good job with Tri-Cities and an established roster and the opportunity to have a very good team next year,” said Shackleford, who signed a two-year contract with an option for a third. “At the end of the day it was about family. This was the best decision, the right decision.”
Along those same lines, Shock majority owner Nader Naini said the decision to switch leagues was made in the best interests of the organization.
“The foundation for (the AFL) was not very good,” Naini said. “That stems from a poor CBA (collective bargaining agreement), ownership groups that were unwilling to play within stipulated rules. There were just a number of foundation-level challenges.”
Naini said the IFL has “a foundation that is solid.” The addition of Spokane gives the IFL 11 members and a 12th based in the Midwest will be announced in about a week. The AFL, which took over operations of two failing franchises during the 2015 season, is down to nine teams.
The IFL, which formed in 2008 from the merger of the United Indoor and Intense arena leagues, returns all 10 teams from the 2015 season.
“That’s a rare occurrence (in arena football), something we’re very proud of,” IFL commissioner Mike Allshouse said. “Adding the Shock only strengthens our product.”
IFL players make $250 per game compared to $875 for AFL counterparts. IFL players sign one-year contracts; the AFL can offer one-, two- or three-year pacts. IFL teams have 25-man rosters, 21 suit up on game day. Allshouse said 2015 average attendance was nearly 4,200, highest in league history.
Spokane will pay $15,000 to join the IFL, which has been dominated by the five-time defending champion Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Storm.
The IFL is a different brand of football than the AFL. Both leagues are 8-man football played indoors on a 50-yard field, but the IFL features more of a running game and dual-threat quarterbacks usually operating out of a shot-gun formation. There are fewer defensive restrictions and no nets in the IFL.
Shackleford compared the IFL level of play to the af2, which disbanded when the AFL re-launched in 2010. Spokane immediately becomes one of, if not the biggest IFL market, along with Des Moines, home of the Iowa Barnstormers, formerly a member of the AFL and af2.
“It’s an expansion franchise with unprecedented tradition,” Shackleford said of the 2016 Shock. “When I call and say I’m head coach of the Spokane Shock, the players don’t care if I’m in the AFL or the IFL, they hear that name and think big crowds, good amenities for the players and lots of excitement.”
Shackleford said none of the 11 signed players have AFL ties. He doesn’t expect former Shock players to return. He talked with Warren Smith, one of Spokane’s quarterbacks in 2015, but Smith indicated he’s going to coach prep football full time.
During his tenure with Tri-Cities, Shackleford declined to pursue a few opportunities to join the AFL as an offensive coordinator and one as a head coach.
“No interest,” he said. “I just don’t trust that league.”
• Ryan Lingenfelder has been hired as head coach of the Tri-Cities Fever. Lingenfelder assisted Shackleford from 2009-2012 and was an assistant with the AFL New Orleans Voodoo last season.
Lingenfelder served as a graduate assistant under Robb Akey in 2008 at the University of Idaho.
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