Alliance of American Football majority investor Tom Dundon told USA Today on Wednesday that the AAF needs a formalized relationship to become the NFL's official developmental league or the AAF may not survive -- and it could all come to a head by the end of this week.
"If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can't be a development league," said Dundon told USA Today. "We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league."
Dundon told USA Today he expects to make a decision on the league's future over "the next two days."
It's not immediately clear if, should Dundon decide the AAF is no longer viable, the league would fold before this weekend's games or if it would finish out its inaugural (and perhaps final) season.
The AAF announced just last week it will move its championship game from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas to The Star in Frisco, Texas, the practice facility of the Dallas Cowboys.
The move was indicative of the two leagues' flirtatious relationship with one another, leading many to speculate the AAF could become essentially the AAA version of the NFL.
However, any move calling for more work by NFL players would require approval by the NFL Players' Assocation, and the NFLPA is reportedly hesitant to agree to such a move. An NFLPA official told USA Today:
The person said the players' union is founded on the belief that using active NFL players and practice squad members for the AAF would violate the terms of the CBA and the restrictions that prevent teams from holding mandatory workouts and practices throughout the offseason. The limitations set in place are designed to ensure the safety and adequate rest and recovery time for football players. But there’s a concern that teams would abuse their power and pehaps force young players into AAF action as a condition for consideration for NFL roster spots in the fall.
The additional concern on the NFLPA’s part is that if an NFL player played in the AAF and suffered serious injury, that player would face the risk of missing an NFL season and lose a year of accrued experience, which carries financial ramifications for players.
CBS Sports Network's Ben Kercheval reported the two leagues were in negotiations, and that the AAF would cover the insurance policies for the borrowed NFL players.
If such an agreement is not possible, it appears Dundon believes the AAF may not be a viable business enterprise.
This leads to the most pressing question of all: why, then, did Dundon a Dallas-based hedge fund manager and the owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, commit $250 million (The Action Network's Darren Rovell reports Dundon has actually put $70 million in to this point) to become the AAF's majority investor just five weeks ago?
"I had seen the deal when they were conceptualizing the league," he said on the ESPN On Ice podcast when news of his investment went public. "It wasn't something that I would do, because there were so many questions about the quality of football and all the things that come up when you try to start something new. Once it went on TV, looked great, got good ratings, I talked to people that were supportive of it.
"At the same time, through mutual acquaintances, I understood they had a need for someone like me to step in. It all came together on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. I wish it was more thought out than that, but it was that simple."
According to Rovell, the AAF planned to grow into becoming an NFL minor league by 2021, but Dundon began pushing for that to happen immediately -- or else.
This leads to the final question: If Dundon really was making a leverage play, either with the AAF offices or at the negotiating table with the NFL and NFLPA, well, why would he think that threatening to kill the whole thing make people want to play ball with him?