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Scott G Winterton, KSL

Salt Lake Stallions fold up shop a day after league suspends operations

By Sean Walker, | Posted - Apr. 3, 2019 at 2:59 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Stallions are officially no more.

The first-year Alliance of American Football squad announced that it has formally ceased operations Wednesday, a day after league chairman Tom Dundon suspended football operations across the entire league.

The statement is signed by Tyler Howell, a Utah State graduate who previously worked for the Portland Trail Blazers prior to accepting the position of Salt Lake Stallions team president.

"We are truly grateful to everyone who supported the Stallions and especially the 50-plus talented players and coaches that gave everything they had to provide eight weeks of very good, highly entertaining football," Howell wrote. "We are blessed to have been able to use a first-class venue and fully appreciate all of the amazing people at Rice-Eccles Stadium for helping each event be first class."

Howell added that the team intends to fully refund tickets purchased for what was supposed to be the Stallions' regular-season home finale April 12. That game has been canceled, obviously, and Howell said the team is working with the league to figure out the best way to provide refunds for season ticket holders and individual game ticket buyers, as well.

The Stallions' announcement comes as multiple employees across the organization were laid off, and while AAF co-founder Charlie Ebersol seeks to "restructure" the business entity that may or may not bring the league back for a second season.

Through eight weeks, the Stallions were 3-5 and two games back of Arizona and San Antonio for a playoff bid. While the hope was faint, the team held out that a postseason bid could be on the horizon.

That hope, along with jobs for all the players, coaches, and team and staff personnel, was officially extinguished Wednesday.

San Diego Fleet quarterback Mike Bercovici (11) escapes Salt Lake Stallions defensive end Karter Schult (94) as the Salt Lake Stallions play the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 30, 2019. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL)

"The most disappointing part of this failure is the belief we had that this is a product that will work," Howell said. "The football was good, the changes made the game safer and more exciting for the fans, the timing provided all of us with a chance to extend football by 12 weeks, it provided a much needed development league for players, coaches and officials as well as a revolutionary concept in technology that could change the way we view sports."

Howell also thanked the community for embracing the team "for this short period of time."

The letter was included with the hashtag "Rein Down," as well as the club’s official Twitter hashtag "Full Steed Ahead."

The team joins a long list of now-defunct football ventures in the state of Utah, including indoor teams like the Utah Blaze, Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, Utah Valley Thunder, among many others.

The Alliance had a three-year television contract with outlets ranging from CBS to the NFL Network to Turner Sports, but shut its doors before the first regular season concluded.

Dundon’s losses proved to be too great to sustain the league for another season. Founder of TopGolf and current owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Dundon infused the Alliance with $250 million at the start of the season, granting the title of league chairman and giving him autonomy over several decisions made in the league’s interest.

He reportedly lost $70 million on the venture, according to The Action Network's Darren Rovell, and spent the final few weeks of the season approaching the NFL Players’ Association to finalize a deal that would include signing NFL practice-squad and reserve-level players to participate in the spring football league.

That decision never materialized, and even with an average television audience of 556,000 viewers across games broadcast on CBS, CBS Sports Network, the NFL Network and TNT, there wasn’t enough to keep the league afloat.

Salt Lake’s final game was an 8-3 win over the San Diego Fleet, an offensively inept game that caused both head coach Dennis Erickson and San Diego counterpart Mike Martz to say it was one of the strangest games in the storied careers of the tenured coaches.

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