The Professional Indoor Football League was the second league to successfully play indoor football as a paid pro-league sport, after the Arena Football League. Since the AFL had a patent given in 1990 on the gameplay of "Arena Football" (mainly the endzone nets), the PIFL played with mostly the same rules, but without the endzone nets. The PIFL only lasted one season (1998) under that name.
The PIFL was started by Richard "Dick" Suess. Suess was deeply involved in football on the semi-pro and minor league level, and was editor–publisher of the Minor League Football News. In 1996, he began shopping around the idea of the PIFL, an indoor league created from the top minor league programs around the country. The league was finally formed in late 1997 and began its first season in 1998. The league offices were located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The PIFL was rife with problems from the start. The Colorado Wildcats changed coaches during the preseason. By the third game, many teams were in serious financial trouble and started forfeiting games. The Minnesota Monsters folded after Week # 5. Many other teams missed payrolls and this resulted in many players, including some of the best players, quitting.
In 1999, the PIFL would essentially "split" into two leagues. Keary Ecklund, owner of the Green Bay Bombers and Madison Mad Dogs teams, and an owner–operator of Ecklund Carriers of Neenah, Wisconsin (a trucking company), would take his two teams and form the Indoor Football League (IFL). On January 4, 1999, the remaining teams of the PIFL renamed the league to the Indoor Professional Football League (IPFL).
1998 PIFL TeamsEdit
- Colorado Wildcats - based in Denver, Colorado
- Green Bay Bombers
- Honolulu Hurricanes
- Louisiana Bayou Beast - based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Madison Mad Dogs
- Minnesota Monsters - based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
- Texas Bullets - based in Belton, Texas
- Utah Catzz - based in Orem, Utah
During the planning stages of the Professional Indoor Football League the Louisiana Bayou Best were going to be called the Louisiana Crawdads also during the planning stages Sacramento California and Buffalo New York were awarded charter memberships in the league. Both franchises had nicknames and looked ready to hit the field with the rest of the league for the 1998 season. The Sacramento Majestics and the Buffalo Blitz sadly never made it. The Sacramento Majestices folded while the Buffalo Blitz moved first to Rochester New York and became the Rochester Blitz then the franchise moved again this time to Syracuse New York and became the Syracuse Blitz. The Syracuse Blitz never were a full time member of the PIFL but did played a few exhibition games and were under consideration for membership as an expansion team for 1999. The reason for the clubs relocation from Buffalo to Rochester then finally Syracuse was due to the fact that the Arena Football League was looking into Miami Florida and Buffalo New York as markets for expansion. The AFL did add the Buffalo Destroyers as an expansion team in 1999. Besides the Syracuse Blitz there was a number of teams that played exhibition games against the full time members of the PIFL. Those clubs were the West Virginia (Charleston) Wizards, Las Vegas Outlaws, and Tucson Mirage. Tucson later called it's self the Arizona Mirage. These teams and many other cites were possible expansion teams that may have joined the PIFL for the leagues second season in 1999.
1997-98 PIFL Pre-Season Final StandingsEdit
Minnesota Monsters 2-0 2
West Virginia Wizards 1-0 1
Green Bay Bombers 3-1 4
Utah Catzz 3-1 4
Colorado Wildcats 1-2 3
Madison Mad Dogs 1-3 4
Louisiana Bayou Beast 1-1 2
Las Vegas Outlaws 0-1 1
Tucson Mirage 0-2 2
Texas Bullets 0-3 3
Nebraska Chargers 0-0 0 NOTE The Nebraska Chargers pre-season game Vs the Tucson Mirage was canceled
1998 Final Regular Season Standings Edit
Louisiana Bayou Beast 15-1
The Lawsuit: Arena Football League v. PIFLEdit
In February 1998, the Arena Football League sued the PIFL for allegedly infringing its trademarks, copyrights and patent. The PIFL answered and denied the Arena Football League's allegations. Late in June 1998, the Arena Football League filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction before Judge Harry Leinenweber in Federal Court in the Northern District of Illinois. The Motion was set for hearing on July 21, 1998. On July 20, 1998, the PIFL and its league members filed their response, which included video tapes and other evidence refuting the Arena Football League's allegations. On July 22, 1998, the day after receiving the PIFL's legal papers, the Arena Football League withdrew its Motion for Preliminary Injunction in a lawsuit in Federal Court in Chicago. This ended the Arena Football League's efforts to challenge the practices of any competing professional "indoor" football league and clarified that its patent essentially applied to its end zone rebound nets, not any and all efforts to play American football indoors.
On November 12, 1998, The Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) and the Arena Football League reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit brought by the Arena Football League against the PIFL for patent infringement. As part of the settlement, all present and future PIFL teams have agreed to honor the patents, trademarks, copyrights and net structure of the Arena Football League, and in return the Arena Football League has withdrawn its motion to seek a restraining order to prevent the PIFL from playing its games. Additionally, the PIFL has agreed to use the following disclaimer, "PIFL and its teams are not affiliated, sponsored or associated with the Arena Football League or any of its member teams," on all official publications. Professional Indoor Football League Commissioner Mike Storen stated, "The Professional Indoor Football League is happy to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Arena Football League's patented net system and method of play on the basis that this settlement will allow the Professional Indoor Football League to expand in an orderly fashion."
- Colorado's trip to Louisiana was paid for by the owners of the Bayou Beast.
1998 PIFL Championship GameEdit
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Following the championship game, the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) saluted its best with an on-the-field awards ceremony. Those honored were as follows:
The Professional Indoor Football League earlier announced its 1998 All-Star teams as chosen by the PIFL coaches. The Green Bay Bombers lead the list with five first team selections, including top vote getter quarterback Jay McDonagh. He is joined on the offensive first team by teammates Chris Perry and Heath Garland (both receivers), Louisiana's Michael Lewis (WR), Chris Cloud (center) and Matt Huerkamp (kicker), Colorado's Rob Satterly (offensive line) and Utah's Matt Meservy (OL). Green Bay, Colorado and Madison each placed a pair of players on the defensive first team.
1998 Professional Indoor Football League All-Stars
- First Team
- Second Team
- Honorable Mention
PIFL European DivisionEdit
The PIFL proposed European Division was set to kick off in November 1998 with teams in England and Ireland. A six-team tournament was planned for August 22, 1998 in Manchester, England. Terry Smith was the PIFL European League Director and was the head coach of the Great Britain Spartans. The Spartans were a very successful European minor American football club, trying to move up to the pro level. The Spartans played two exhibition games in the US on April 27, 1998 at the Madison Mad Dogs and on April 29, 1998 at the Green Bay Bombers. They lost both games, 12-29 to Madison and 34-55 to Green Bay. The proposed European Division, however, never actually started play.