After diverting its attention to the west, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) made the surprise decision to head back to the Southeast. On Wednesday, June 6, officials with the newest professional football league announced the seventh team of eight will be in Birmingham, Alabama.
With a metropolitan population of 1.1 million, on par with Buffalo, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City, Birmingham is one of the largest metro areas in the nation without a single major league sports franchise. However, the city has proved a popular community for many upstart and short-lived football leagues of the past, including the World Football League (WFL), the United States Football League (USFL), the World League of American Football (WLAF), the XFL, and even a team in the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) failed U.S. experiment. Despite the track record, Birmingham is one of the most passionate football communities in the nation and hopes are high for the success of the league and team in The Magic City.
Birmingham’s AAF team will play in Legion Field, for many years the home stadium of the Alabama Crimson Tide under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. These days, Legion Field is home to the UAB Blazers and the neutral site stadium for the Magic City Classic, the annual rivalry game between Alabama A&M and Alabama State, perhaps the important football game among historic black colleges in the country.
OFFICIAL: Tim Lewis is named head coach of the #AllianceBHM team! A defensive expert, Coach Lewis comes to Birmingham with 21 years of experience coaching in the pros #JoinTheAlliance pic.twitter.com/43g7okNEHs
— AAF (@TheAAF) June 6, 2018
Coaching the Birmingham squad will be Tim Lewis, an All-American defensive standout with the Pitt Panthers, a former defensive back for the Green Bay Packers from 1983 until 1986 when a neck injury ended his playing career. He began his coaching career in 1987 as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M, before moving on to stops at SMU and Pitt. He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers staff in 1995 as the defensive coordinator. Since 2004, Lewis has served as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants and coached secondary positions with the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Atlanta Falcons. Lewis has compiled a cumulative record of 183-152-1 during his 20-year coaching career in the NFL.
Announced in the wake of the National Anthem controversy plaguing the NFL, the AAF has positioned itself as league focused on football fans in an obvious attempt to capture fans turned off by the political protests of many NFL players. However, shortly after the announcement revealing Birmingham as an AAF city, recently-elected Birmingham mayor Randall Wooding posted a Tweet encouraging Kolin Kaepernick to play quarterback for the city’s AAF team. However, the league has already announced it will require all AAF players who choose to be on the field to stand for the National Anthem.
— Randall Woodfin (@WoodfinForBham) June 6, 2018