The battle between Champions Indoor Football’s desire to become the biggest minor league indoor football league in the country and the Indoor Football League’s drive to stay afloat took a wild turn Tuesday afternoon.
The big news, that seemingly came from out of nowhere, was that the IFL had swiped two teams from CIF, announcing that the Bloomington Edge and West Michigan Ironmen had made the jump up from CIF to IFL.
It was a big score for the IFL after it had already lost its marquee franchise, the Sioux Falls Storm to CIF, rumored to have lost the Wichita Falls Nighthawks to the same league, and had three other teams fold.
“We are thrilled to announce the additions of the Bloomington Edge and the West Michigan Ironmen,” IFL Commissioner Michael Allshouse said. “It is a pleasure to welcome these fantastic and passionate markets to the IFL. Both of these organizations provide an exciting championship quality product and tremendous partnerships for all members of the League.”
The addition of the two teams brings the IFL up to seven current members, which makes me think there will be at least one expansion team added to get to an even eight for 2018.
“We were drawn back to the IFL for many reasons,” Bloomington Owner Omar Khokhar said in a press release on the IFL site. “The IFL has several titans of indoor football, including the Iowa Barnstormers and Arizona Rattlers, as well as several top-notch rivals within our geographic footprint. Finally, the IFL has a robust digital platform that offers an attractive platform to our business partners and will help continue to grow our brand. This is a great day for the City of Bloomington!”
For Bloomington and West Michigan it sort of makes sense, as four of the five teams that were already in the IFL will be within the same region, but from a competition standpoint it’s…really weird. The IFL is a higher league that pays its players more than CIF did ($250 a game to $75 a game), and is a league that is generally in mid-sized markets which…neither Bloomington, IL or Muskegon, MI are.
Oddly, this will be the second stint for each city in the IFL, Bloomington were originally in the league from 2009 to 2012, while West Michigan previously had a team under different owners, the West Michigan ThunderHawks, who played two season in the IFL (one in Muskegon, one in Grand Rapids) in 2009 and 2010.
“The Ironmen are excited to join a league with such a rich history and high level of play,” West Michigan Owner Terrance Williams said. “We look forward to competing with teams that have long histories of success at the highest level of indoor football, while maintaining our established rivalry with the Bloomington Edge.”
On the field, the Edge were solid in 2017, making the playoffs and going 7-6 overall, while West Michigan was just 4-8 after moving over to CIF from one of the many failed alphabet soup leagues.
But the drama for the day didn’t end there, while IFL was taking two teams from CIF, CIF countered with the long-anticipated announcement that the Wichita Fall Nighthawks were officially joining CIF after spending three years in the IFL.
With the loss of Bloomington and West Michigan, but with the addition of Wichita Falls, CIF currently sits at 13 teams for 2018, which also leads me to believe they will try to add another team before the start of the year to stay at 14, the same number of teams they played with in 2017.
“It’s not too hard to see that financially that this has not been successful and they are a lot of markets that are successful,” Nighthawks Owner Drew Carnes said Tuesday. “But the bigger thing than the market, for me was the league. I think we’ve done a good job at increasing attendance. My wife and I prayed continually over it, what was the best decision for us. What was the best decision for the future of the team, the organization what makes the most sense.”
The move makes a ton of sense geographically for Wichita Falls, which will play in the South Division with three other nearby teams in Texas within 3 hours. In the IFL the closest team was approximately 6-7 hours away in Nebraska.
“We’re going to have rivalries from Frisco, to Mesquite, to Amarillo, and possible Saline as well that fans can come and enjoy games home and away,” said Back. “Our fans can go to their place, their fans can come to our place. So, we’re excited about that. Also, we’re excited about the 2 hour bus trips. 2 hours there, 2 hours back.”
On the field the Nighthawks were a big success over the past two seasons, going a combined 23-9 in the IFL, including 12-4 this past year.