MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the folding of the Alliance of American Football league, a third non-NFL league has come and gone from the Bluff City’s Liberty Bowl.
WMC5 spoke with a Memphian who has seen them all and knows football.
"Memphis should still be proud of the football heritage here in Memphis,” said Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Classic. "I've been in football most of my life, it's given me a great career and I enjoy it very much."
In his time, he’s witnessed two other non-NFL programs come and go from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
"The model of the USFL was to sign great players for the future,” Ehrhart said.
Ehrhart was the President and General Manager for the United States Football League’s Memphis Showboats back in the mid-80s. After just one season, finances forced the league to fold.
"Memphis has done a great job at supporting football,” Ehrhart said.
Fast forward to 2001 when Memphis was home to the XFL team the Memphis Maniax for just one season. Ehrhart served as vice president and general manager of that team. That league also folded, due to financial loss.
“It’s generally been the other cities or the capitalization problems,” Ehrhart said. “When people go to start a league, they’ve got to know they have enough finances. Enough money in the bank to weather the storm.”
Despite those financial struggles, WWE CEO Vince McMahon is reviving the XFL league in 2020. Memphis will not be one of the home cities in that new season.
"The fans of Memphis have certainly supported football, it’s just the problem with some of these other leagues - just not enough revenue and not enough good financial planning,” Ehrhart said.
Ehrhart’s heart goes out to the players and coaches of the Alliance of American Football.
“I certainly feel bad for the players that were trying so hard, these coaches,” Ehrhart said. “There was great coaching in the league.”
Ehrhart once again watched a team fold due to failed finances.
“This was an unfortunate situation,” Ehrhart said. “It didn’t have anything to do with Memphis fans. It simply had to do with the league formulated, it didn’t have enough capital, didn’t have enough money to pay the bills.”