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Toronto FC Remains Unbeaten in Last Ten, Hosts D.C. United in Playoffs

Toronto FC needed a win. And they needed a bunch of help.

On MLS’ Decision Day, Toronto FC not only defeated Columbus FC 1-0 but got the help they needed to finish fourth in the MLS East Standings. With Philadelphia United losing 2-0 to the Montreal Impact and FC Cincinnati and D.C. United draw, the Reds will now host a playoff game in two week’s time.

The match was a cagey affair to start between TFC and Columbus. Both squads were nervy, looking to keep the play in the midfield. Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said in the first half interview that he wanted his team to “have more tempo and urgency,” given the playoff implications.

The second half was a complete contrast. Unlike the first half, where Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore could not convert on their chances, Alejandro Pouzelo saw nothing but net in the 58th minute. His 12th goal in his inaugural MLS season came from the free-kick, providing the Reds the lead that they rode to the final whistle.

The Toronto FC win did not come without consequences. In the second half, Jozy Altidore, who has seven goals for TFC this season, had to leave the game with an apparent ankle injury. After taking a hard tackle in Columbus’ end, Altidore gingerly walked over to the locker room, ending his regular-season campaign.

For Toronto FC, the 2019 season has epitomized transformation and perseverance. Coming into the year having not made the playoffs in the 2018 season, the Reds were in search of an identity and finding consistency all season long. But the resiliency and experience this team has demonstrated the last two months of the season have seen TFC go unbeaten in their last 10 games.
Toronto FC’s Resiliency Makes Them Difficult Playoff Opponent
No better example than in stoppage time, when Toronto FC had to stop a corner kick from Columbus. Their defenders, including goalkeeper Quintin Westberg, were never phased and cleared the ball out of their own zone. Sealing the season-ending victory.

In two weeks, Toronto FC will host D.C. United at BMO Field. Two previous matches against the two clubs have resulted in draws.

Given the consistent form and hot streak Toronto FC has been on the last few weeks, expect the Reds to be marching into the MLS Playoffs with a fervent chip on their shoulder.

 The post Toronto FC Remains Unbeaten in Last Ten, Hosts D.C. United in Playoffs appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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IFL Commissioner Michael Allshouse Resigns, Todd Tryon to be next up

The Indoor Football League formally announced on Thursday that league commissioner Michael Allshouse has put in his official resignation after 10 years of service with the group.

The IFL released a statement on the matter saying that their search for a new commissioner had started, but according to our sources that search has already conclude.

The league is expected to announce soon that former owner of the Sioux Falls Storm, Todd Tryon, will be named the league’s next commissioner.
IFL Commissioner Michael Allshouse Resigns, Todd Tryon to be next up
It was first reported by “The IFL Network.”

The full statement sent out by the league can be viewed in full below:

The Indoor Football League (IFL) announced today that Commissioner Michael Allshouse has resigned to pursue other professional opportunities, effective immediately. The Board has begun a search for Allshouse’s successor.

“After ten years of service to the IFL it is the right time for me to step away from the organization,” said Allshouse. “I will look back fondly on my experience with the league, but it is time for me to explore other opportunities and challenges as I continue to grow professionally and personally.”

IFL Chairwoman Kathy Treankler stated, “The IFL Board of Directors is grateful for Mike’s years of service and leadership. Although we are sad to see him go, we fully support his decision and are thankful for his many accomplishments at the IFL. We wish him nothing but the best as he continues his professional career.”

Allshouse joined the IFL as an intern in 2009. He went on to serve in the roles of Director of Communications, Director of Football Operations, and Assistant Commissioner before being promoted to Commissioner in 2013.

“I have always prided myself on leaving a situation in a better position than when I arrived, and I believe we achieved that goal,” stated Allshouse.

The IFL is not yet finished announcing each of their expansion teams, so until that happens, the release of the 2020 schedule will be delayed. The schedule was announced last season in November.The post IFL Commissioner Michael Allshouse Resigns, Todd Tryon to be next up appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster

The Iowa Barnstormers have consistently had one of the best receiving corps’ in the Indoor Football League over the past few seasons.

With the imminent coaching change that became official on Thursday with the hiring of Ameer Ismail, it’s wondered on if the Barnstormers will elect to maintain the focus on pass catchers.

They already took a big step towards it when they signed their first player on Friday.
Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster
Connor Hollenbeck, a standout from the team’s 2019 roster became the first player to sign for 2020 as well as the first to announce he was returning to Des Moines.

For him, the process was easy.

After he found out former head coach Dixie Wooten would be leaving the franchise, he wanted to see who Iowa hired next before he signed to play for the Barnstormers for a second season.

“[Barnstormers Vice President and Chief Operating Executive] John [Pettit] called me a told me who it was,” Hollenbeck said. “We talked and I signed an hour later.”

Hollenbeck said he’s heard and seen nothing but good things about Coach Ismail and that it made his decision easy.

The returning standout was looking for another high energy coach to lead the Barnstormers and he got exactly that in Ismail.

“I wanted to see [Iowa hire] a coach with the same energy as [Wooten],” Hollenbeck said. “As long as he can keep us motivated and keep that energy and practice like it’s a game, we’ll [be good].”

Hollenbeck finished in the top 10 category in a number of receiving stats for the IFL in 2019.

The Edinsboro graduate finished eighth in total yards with 627, tied for seventh in touchdowns with 14, and was fourth in the league with 58 receptions in 13 games played.

Wide receiver Connor Hollenbeck tosses a ball to a ref following a first down. Hollenbeck is already making an impact at the position just two weeks into his career in Iowa. Photo by Connor Ferguson

“Obviously I’d like to increase my catches and yards,” Hollenbeck said. “That’d be awesome. I mean, like last year, I had better stats than I did any other year and our record was good. You know, I think you kind of look at your role on the team and know what you’re going to get no matter the situation, so maybe [I’d want to look at] consistency I guess.”

Though Hollenbeck’s goals lie within the team he’s playing on.

After playing two seasons with the Cedar Rapids Titans and only seeing four combined wins in his time on the east side of the state, the move to the Des Moines squad that was trending upward was easy.

“I’m going to keep just playing my game,” Hollenbeck said. “I’m all about the team. As long as we have a record like we did last year, I could really care less about how many catches I get.”

One thing that Hollenbeck is trying to improve on this year is playing at an even lighter weight than he did a season ago.

That’s what scouts have given Hollenbeck for feedback as he works, like the rest of the league, to reach the next level.

“I want to get quicker and faster,” Hollenbeck said. “That means playing at a lower weight and get a little leaner. See if I can get a little faster and develop some break-away speed; stuff like that.”

Hollenbeck came into camp last season weighing 240 pounds, which was a little on the heavy side for him, but he planned to cut weight during the two-week period.

That meant he was playing last season around 230 pounds.

“I felt better with the way I was playing on the field like that, so maybe if I lost five or ten more, I might feel even better,” Hollenbeck said.

He wants to take his range from 220-240 pounds during the year and shift it to around 215-230 pounds.

“I want to maybe come into camp a little bit lighter this year,” Hollenbeck said. “And bulk up a bit before, still so I can lose it.”

The team is slated to begin the 2020 Indoor Football League season in February, but the official schedule won’t be released for at least a couple of weeks.

Look for more news and profiles on Last Word On Sports’ Indoor Football department and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more offseason news.The post Connor Hollenbeck becomes first signing for Barnstormers 2020 Roster appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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The Race for First in the CFL West Division

The CFL West Division continues to be the cream of the crop year after year. And while the East finally has two legitimate contenders heading into the last five games of the season, the West still holds all the cards.

Winnipeg, Calgary and Saskatchewan are all vying for the number one seed in the CFL West Division and if this season has been any indication, it’ll likely come down to the final two-three weeks. Let’s take a look at who has the most difficult and easiest path to the top seed.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Remaining Games:
Vs Hamilton

@ Saskatchewan

Vs Montreal

@ Calgary

Vs Calgary

The final five games of the Bombers schedule make the blown leads against the Argonauts and Alouettes that much more painful. At 9-4, the Bombers don’t play a team with a losing record to close out the season.

Chris Streveler has been formidable in the starting role for the Bombers, he’ll need to be even better with Matt Nichols officially out for the season. There is absolutely no clarity with the tie-breakers. Winnipeg is 1-0 versus Calgary but has a home and home to close out the season with them.

After trouncing the Roughriders at the Banjo Bowl, the season-series hangs in the balance next week but they’ll have to go to Saskatchewan to seal the deal there. When it’s all said and done, Winnipeg likely has the most difficult path to first place, despite currently holding that position. I predict two tough losses to Hamilton and Saskatchewan but a strong finish with a victory over Montreal and a split with Calgary.

Final record prediction: 11-7
Calgary Stampeders
Remaining Games:
Bye Week

@ Montreal

Vs Saskatchewan

Vs Winnipeg

@ Winnipeg

@BC

What many (wrongfully) thought would be a down year for Calgary. They’ve proved once again why they’ve been the best-run franchise in the CFL for the better part of a decade. After losing an onslaught of contributors from the 2018 Championship winning team, having Bo Levi Mitchell miss seven games as well as battling injuries at other key positions, Calgary is still right in the thick of it for first in the West.

Similar to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Calgary Stampeders do not have an easy path to finish in first. Thankfully for them, their commanding 37-10 win over Saskatchewan early in the season gives them the upper hand heading into that Week 18 matchup. Calgary has historically struggled in Montreal. Since 2014, the Stampeders are 1-4 in games at McGill Stadium. Is that necessarily indicative of how this next matchup will go? No, but it’s something worth considering, and Vernon Adams Jr. will be back for this matchup.

With a split with Winnipeg already predicted above, I reckon the Stampeders will drop their game in Montreal, win a tightly contested game against Saskatchewan and finish the season strong against the underachieving BC Lions.

Final record prediction: 12-6
Saskatchewan Roughriders:
Remaining Games:
@ Toronto

Vs Winnipeg

@ Calgary

@BC

@ Edmonton

Vs Edmonton

At 8-4 the Roughriders have had one of the more interesting paths to contention. After starting the season 1-3, the Riders rallied to win six straight before being blown out by Winnipeg and winning a nail biter against Montreal. In that time, their strength of competition came under fire as many pointed that during their six-game winning streak, two of those came against the aforementioned Lions, the basement-dwelling Argos and the rebuilding Redblacks. (There’s also that one game that didn’t finish because of lightning but I digress).

While the Riders can’t control who they play, they took care of business against teams that they were expected to. Their remaining schedule appears to be the easiest with two games against a struggling Edmonton team, one more against BC and a matchup in Toronto.  However, the one thing the Riders have working against them is where their games are being played. Currently, Saskatchewan has a 2-3 record on the road. Four of their last six games will also be played on the road, if Saskatchewan is to land a home playoff game (where they are currently 6-1), they’ll have to take care of business outside of Regina.

A win in Toronto should be expected, the Riders having home-field against the Bombers in the tie-breaker game gives them the edge in that one as well. I predict a loss in Calgary but a quick bounce-back victory against BC before splitting with Edmonton to close out the season (assuming Trevor Harris is back).

Final record prediction: 12-6
Edmonton Eskimos
Remaining games:
@ Ottawa

@ Hamilton

Vs BC

Vs Saskatchewan

@ Saskatchewan

Apologies in advance to Edmonton fans, there’s simply too much up in the air with Trevor Harris being inactive. Assuming Edmonton defeats Ottawa, that would put them at 7-7 with games against Hamilton, BC and Saskatchewan (x2) remaining. For the optimists’ sake, let’s imagine that they drop their game in Hamilton but defeat BC and split with Saskatchewan. A 9-9 record will be good enough for the crossover in 2019 (unlike last season), but that would mean they have to go to Montreal and Hamilton to battle their way back to Calgary for the 107th Grey Cup

Final record prediction: 9-9
Final Predicted CFL West Division Standings
Calgary Stampeders: 12-6

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 12-6

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 11-7

Edmonton Eskimos: 9-9

BC Lions: 5-13
Final Thoughts
Regardless if these predictions turn out or not, the good news for CFL fans everywhere is that they’ll be treated to “playoff atmosphere” football long before November 10th. Calgary, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan’s matchups against one another down the final stretch of the regular season should offer fireworks and some of the best football CFL fans have seen this season.

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Spokane to return with ‘Shock’ name, Billy Back to HC

The Indoor Football League is expanding once again, and this time will be adding a familiar face to it’s lineup for the 2020 season.

The league is expanding with to the city of Spokane, who spent both 2016 and 2017 in the IFL under as the Spokane Empire before folding after a two-year stint with the league.

Now, the city will once again have an IFL team and this time with the ‘Shock’ nickname that was used in years prior when they were in the Arena Football League (AFL).

The name comes with a plethora of success, as the city won the AF2’s (development league for the AFL at the time) ArenaCup in 2006 and 2009 as well as the AFL’s Arena Bowl in 2010.
Spokane to return with ‘Shock’ name, Billy Back to HC
Sources have told Last Word On Sports that former NAL Coach of the Year and 2018 NAL Championship winner Billy Back will be named the head coach of the Shock.

The Carolina Cobras, the team Back coached for the past two seasons, announced that the two had parted ways earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the franchise has resurrected its Facebook page and appears to be using the same logo and word marks as it had in the past. The page can be viewed here. 

Spokane will become the 12th team set to play in the Indoor Football League for the 2020 season. Do note that this includes the Nebraska Danger who may not be playing in Grand Island again next season.

The Shock are expected to make an announcement regarding the team’s 2020 plans on October 1. For more Indoor Football League off-season news, follow LWOS on twitter here.

2020 Indoor Football League teams
Arizona Rattlers
Bismarck Bucks
Cedar Rapids River Kings
Duke City Gladiators
Green Bay Blizzard
Iowa Barnstormers
Nebraska Danger*
Oakland Panthers
Quad City Steamwheelers
San Diego Strike Force
Sioux Falls Storm
Spokane Shock
Tucson Sugar SkullsThe post Spokane to return with ‘Shock’ name, Billy Back to HC appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach

The search for the Iowa Barnstormers newest head coach is over, the team announced on Thursday, as they have hired Ameer Ismail to take the reins in Des Moines.

Ismail becomes the eighth head coach in Iowa Barnstormers history and will follow the most successful coaching stint the team has seen in Dixie Wooten.
Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach
The former NFL and arena league player brings experience from all over the place, including stints with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars as well as the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks (Pre-NAL) and a plethora of IFL teams.

“It is such an amazing honor to be named the new Head Coach of the Iowa Barnstormers, the most prestigious and historic team in all of indoor or arena football,” Ismail said in a press release from the team. “[Barnstormers Vice President and COO] John Pettit and I have known each other and maintained a great relationship over the years despite being on different teams or even in different leagues.”

Ismail started off his coaching career with assistant roles in the IFL in 2014. He spent time with the Cedar Rapids Titans, Tri-Cities Fever, and Spokane Empire.

In 2017, Ismail took his first head coaching job with the Champion Indoor Football league’s Bloomington Edge, where he would lead his team to a 7-6 record and a berth in the CIF Playoffs.

The next year, Ismail packed up shop and accepted the head coaching position for the newly formed Massachusetts Pirates in the east coast’s National Arena League.

There, Ismail led his team to an 11-6 record and another berth in the playoffs. He was also named NAL Coach of the Year during that time.

In 2019 Ismail took a break from head coaching in the arena league to take a spot coaching the outside linebackers at Albion College.

Now, he’ll return to the indoor ranks carrying an 18-12 record as a head coach and a resume that includes two playoff appearances in as many seasons.

“To be able to work with someone of his expertise and experience is another major reason why I wanted to be here,” Ismail said in the release. “We will continue the winning ways with tremendous positive culture for our community and fans. I am very grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to bring another championship to Des Moines.”

Expect the Barnstormers as well as other teams in the Indoor Football League to start announcing player signings soon as well as an announcement regarding Iowa’s assistant coaching staff.The post Ameer Ismail hired as newest Iowa Barnstormers Coach appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Is the Edmonton Eskimos Playoff Spot Actually Secure?

This weekend the Edmonton Eskimos dropped their fifth game in a row as Hamilton defeated them on their home field as a last-second field goal banged off the uprights and in. They now have a record of 6-7 and suddenly don’t appear to be a shoo-in for the playoffs; as they appeared just a couple weeks ago. But let’s imagine, if the worst-case scenario happened and they lost their last five games to finish with a record of 6-12, would they still make the playoffs?

Here is the rest of their schedule:

Week 16: at Ottawa

Week 17: at Hamilton

Week 18: BC

Week 20: Saskatchewan

Week 21: at Saskatchewan

That’s not to say they will lose each of these games. However, if it were to happen, would the Edmonton Eskimos still make the playoffs? Right now, Edmonton is six points ahead of BC and Ottawa, who each have three wins. Toronto has a game in hand on those two and is four points behind their two wins. None of these teams are very good, but could any of them make a late-season surge and steal a playoff spot?
Contenders
Ottawa
The Redblacks are sputtering as much as any team in the league right now. After that, they play at Toronto in Week 18, at Hamilton, at Toronto and against Montreal. But, assuming they beat Edmonton this week—because that’s the premise, could they make a late run? Not likely. I don’t believe they will sweep Toronto or beat Hamilton or Montreal.
Toronto
After starting 0-6, the Argonauts have won two of their last six games; including a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They crushed the Redblacks in Ottawa in Week 13, and in that time McLeod Bethel-Thompson has shown signs of being a capable quarterback. They narrowly lost to Calgary last week and lost a one-possession game against Montreal in Week 11. The improvement over the season is obvious. They could win their next two games against Saskatchewan this week and then at BC. They get Ottawa after that before going to Montreal. Ottawa comes to town once again before they end the season at Hamilton.

I would give them a better chance to make the playoffs in the present circumstances than Ottawa. They get two home games against the Redblacks, but having to go to BC, Montreal and Hamilton they would need at least one win there to get to six wins (assuming they do defeat the RoughRiders). So could they catch a 6-12 Edmonton team? Possibly, but I would say they would have no higher than a 30% chance.
BC
The BC Lions have won two in a row over the hapless Redblacks. This week they take on Montreal, then host the Argos, go to Edmonton (which is a win we assume for this scenario), host Saskatchewan, then get a bye in Week 20 before hosting Calgary to close the season. They have had some close calls this season against Hamilton (twice), at Montreal, at Saskatchewan and at Calgary. BC’s only other win this season was over—you guessed it—Toronto.

What gives them hope is that they get four home games over their last five, and with Mike Reilly leading the show he could get hot at any point and string some wins together. I would give them a 50% chance to catch a 6-12 Edmonton.

I imagine they will win at least one of the next two games at home against Eastern opponents (Toronto and Montreal), if not both. But even if they only win one, and we assume they win at Edmonton they will be at five wins. Then, the game against the Riders would be a must-win because their Week 21 game with Calgary could very easily determine home-field advantage for the Stampeders.
Outcome
All this said I am hard-pressed to think that Edmonton will not win another game. If they don’t get off the skids this week against the Redblacks, heads need to roll. This is a must-win game against the worst team in the league. With the Riders form recently, the Esks could easily take a game from them. But I don’t see them winning at Hamilton. I also believe playing BC will be tough, because beating a team three times in a season is not easy.

If the Edmonton Eskimos win one more game this season, that should be enough to ensure a playoff spot. Two would all but secure it. However, if they don’t win another game this season, I would still give the Esks a decent shot to make the playoffs at 6-12, but it would certainly not be a guarantee.

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Carolina Cobras, Billy Back part ways

The National Arena League has been home to the Carolina Cobras and head coach Billy Back for each of the past two indoor football seasons – one of which that saw the expansion team go from rags to riches and win a title in their first year.

Today, the Cobras announced that Back has submitted his resignation from the head coaching position in Carolina, making him available as one of the top available coaches in an off-season that has been filled with moves.

Team owner Rob Storm released a statement that has been posted on the team’s website. The full release can be found here.

“On behalf of the entire Cobras organization, we thank Billy Back for everything he has done for us over our first two seasons, and know that wherever he lands, that team will be getting one heck of a good coach. He will definitely be missed by many,” Storm said in the release. “We wish Billy, Stacie and the entire Back family the best of luck! We know he will be successful wherever his path may lead. You will always be part of the Cobras family.”

Now, Back will take his championship experience to a new home so long as he continues coaching football, and the Indoor Football League could be a spot for a reunion.

Back got his big break coaching for the Wichita Falls Nighthawks when the team was in the IFL and was even originally signed to lead the Cedar Rapids Titans in 2018 before being bought out by Carolina.

I mentioned his name in my column a week ago on where the Iowa Barnstormers – a championship program that just lost their coach as well – will look to next.

Back could be a great fit for the franchise, and no matter where he goes, he’ll bring a barrage of talented players with him.The post Carolina Cobras, Billy Back part ways appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era

The Iowa Barnstormers went 10-20 in their first two seasons in the Indoor Football League. After that stretch, Iowa had gone seven straight years without a winning season.

Dixie Wooten entered. He went 36-8 in his three seasons at the helm in Des Moines, winning IFL Coach of the Year twice and also the franchise’s first championship.

The Barnstormers announced last week that the pair had parted ways and on Wednesday, the Tucson Sugar Skulls announced that Wooten would be their next head coach.

The full press release from the IFL can be found here.

So. Where does Iowa go now?
FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era
Well, the right candidate will likely have a strength in recruiting. That’s how the Barnstormers were successful under Wooten.

Even with rosters that only included five to eight players returning each season, Wooten rounded up talented teams in each of his three seasons.

Iowa’s front office as well as its fans are going to be looking for the same quality in their next leader.

Now, with Wooten’s departure, it’s expected that some of the stars from Iowa’s roster will not be returning to the team in the upcoming season.

The most obvious is 2019 LWOS IFL MVP Ryan Balentine, who has played under Wooten since their days in Billings.

Rocky Hayes was another standout during this past season in the heartland. When asked if he was coming back after Iowa’s last game he said it would depend on what Wooten would do.

And what’s to make of standout quarterback Daquan Neal? Wooten brought him to Iowa and he shined. Will he follow to Tucson?

October 1 is the first day that returning players from 2019 can sign with teams for 2020, so we won’t know much of anything in concrete until then.

As for coaching candidates for the team, it’s not likely that a former player of recent years will be taking over the ship. It didn’t work for Joe Brannen and of the players that have gone on to coach, most headed to the college ranks in position coaching spots.

Although, there is one exception to that in Jason Simpson. 

Simpson was an stand out defensive back and has been involved with Iowa for a number of years. Last season, he was the team’s defensive back coach and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the 2020 staff in some capacity.

Another pair of names to look at are those that were assistant coaches when Wooten was in Iowa.

Hurtiss Chin and Marcus Coleman both have experience with Wooten, were on the Iowa staff during the United Bowl season, and coached in Tucson this past season.

Now, there’s still a chance the two stay in Tucson for 2020, but the Sugar Skulls did not announce any plans for their assistant coach when Wooten’s hire was announced.

The last time Iowa was staffed with hiring a new coach, Mark Stoute’s name was thrown around as the next potential coach instead of Wooten.

Stoute ended up taking the job in Jacksonville and most recently finished off the 2019 season with the Cedar Rapids River Kings. The team finished 1-13 last season.

If you’re looking for Iowa to get what some would consider a home run hire, I’d pick one out of left field in current Carolina Cobras (NAL) head coach Billy Back.

Back has plenty of experience and has proved his worth in Carolina, earning back-to-back trips to the east coast league’s championship game and winning the whole thing back in 2018.

Not to mention, Back has history with the IFL and was at one point signed to coach in Iowa with Cedar Rapids right before accepting the Carolina job.

No matter who Iowa hires as its franchise’s next head coach, fans in the stands are going to expect wins – rightfully so. That’s what they should expect after the Dixie Wooten era.

The thing that’s important to remember is that in a sport filled with uncertainty year after year, Iowa is still here in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena, and come February, we’ll all be sitting back, watching some good, old Barnstormers football.The post FERGUSON: Where Iowa will go Following Dixie Wooten Era appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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The 10 Biggest Changes in 100 Years of the NFL

When the NFL first started in 1920, it wasn’t the high-flying spectacle it is now. Here are the moments that shaped America’s game in 100 years of the NFL.
The 10 Biggest Changes in 100 Years of the NFL
Photo Credit: Betway NFL
The Forward Pass
The passing game isn’t nearly what it used to be during the early years of the NFL. The NFL in its early stages resembled a game closer to that of the game of Rugby and forward passes were considered illegal.

When forward passes were allowed—although still rare—quarterbacks could only throw the ball forward from within five yards of the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t until 1933 that the NFL began to separate itself from college football where they began to allow forward passes from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. This is what would come to shape the game of football that we know today.

At this same time, it was rare to see a quarterback throw for big numbers. In the 1932 season, no quarterback threw for more than 640 yards or nine touchdowns. In 2015, we saw Drew Brees throw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns in one game—an NFL record for passing touchdowns in a single game.
The Draft
The volatility of one team going from the bottom dwellers to winning a super bowl title in a couple of seasons is what makes the NFL Draft one of the most exciting sports events of the year.

In 1936, the NFL, in a bid to restore a competitive and take leverage away from the players, held its inaugural draft. Franchises would begin taking turns selecting college players, with the worst team from each previous season picking first. Before then, the players held all the cards as teams would engage in chaotic bidding wars to sign amateur players right out of college.

Within the next 30 years, every other major sports league would follow suit and hold their own inaugural draft.
Racial Integration
During the league’s formative years, its players and coaches were almost exclusively white, despite having a handful of black players in its very early seasons. Between 1934 and 1946, there were no black players at all.

Ultimately, in 1946, UCLA Bruins running back, Kenny Washington—who is regarded as one of the best collegiate players ever— broke the race barrier and became the first African-American to sign an NFL contract.

From then on, the NFL slowly integrated black players into the league, with most coming from the AFL/NFL merger in 1970.

As of 2014, the NFL’s player pool was 68% African-American. But the issues of race in sports is still ongoing despite the NFL’s ground-breaking Rooney Rule (2003), which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every head coaching vacancy. As of the beginning of the 2019 NFL season, only three of the 32 NFL head coaches are African-American.
The Schedule
The NFL’s early years were chaotic in terms of teams’ schedules. At one point, there was no set schedule and franchises wound up playing any teams they could arrange a match with, which even included teams from outside of the league. Because of the unorganized structure of the games, the amount of match-ups teams got varied widely. Some teams were able to play 10 or more games, while the Muncie Flyers played just one, to which they lost and put them in last place.

Oddly enough, there was no championship game in the early years. Title winners were voted on by team owners at an end-of-season meeting. In 1933, the NFL revised its strange formula and had its inaugural title game between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. In 1936, the NFL would begin having all nine teams play 12 games each, and since 1978, the regular season has been comprised of 16 games for each team.
The Helmets
It’s frightening to imagine the kind of helmet-to-helmet contact we see today happening with the soft leather caps players wore in the NFL’s early years. In the 1940s and 1950s, the NFL finally moved on to using plastic helmets with face masks to polymer helmets that are universal in today’s game.

The decision to move away from the leather caps was intended to improve player safety. But brain injuries like CTE are still a key concern today and the league continues to push rule changes around the league and make that kind of harsh contact illegal in the game.

In 2013, the league was sued by nearly 4,500 former players for concussion-related injuries.
The AFL Merger
In 1959, the founding of the American Football League (AFL) quickly threatened the dominance of the NFL by luring away top college recruits with lucrative contracts. The NFL recognized that the competition could threaten their talent pool and profitability and by 1966, a deal was agreed to merge the two leagues. The NFL kept its name and the AFL and NFL franchises were separated into two conferences: the AFC and the NFC. At the end of each season, the conference champions would play each other, spawning one of the biggest sporting events in the world…
The Super Bowl
The Super Bowl regularly attracts over 100 million viewers worldwide each year, more than any annual sporting event except the Champions League final. That’s impressive—thanks to the NFL’s marketing strategy—considering American Football is difficult for most outside of the U.S. to understand.

Super Sunday has essentially become a national holiday for American Football fans, and traditions like Super Bowl parties and prop bets have spread to countries even outside of the US.
The Halftime Show
Some of the biggest musical acts in the world like Prince, Michael Jackson, and Beyoncé have produced iconic performances at the Super Bowl halftime show. It’s the biggest in-game entertainment that no other sports league sees and is a big component to just how successful the super bowl is.

Until the 1990s, the half-time show would only feature a marching band with a theme like A Salute to the Big Band Era or It’s a Small World. It wasn’t until Michael Jackson’s iconic 1993 91 million viewer performance that changed everything. The half-time show from then on would be a coveted gig for the world’s biggest artists.

Since then, the half-time show has essentially been as memorable as the game itself. Some unforgettable moments from over the years include Janet Jackson’s Nipplegate, Katy Perry’s ‘Left Shark’, and Lady Gaga’s leap from the stadium roof.
The Salary Cap
Aside from the draft, the salary cap is the NFL’s greatest leveler. While sports like baseball and soccer (sorry, football fans) tend to reward the owners with the deepest pockets, when the NFL introduced the salary cap in 1994, a teams’ success no longer relied on how much money came out of their pockets but on good coaching and talent evaluation.

Take the New England Patriots for example. They have dominated the league since 2000 and their success can be largely attributed to three-time league MVP, Tom Brady—the (almost) undisputed GOAT quarterback and former sixth-round draft pick—and three-time Coach of the Year, Bill Belichick, rather than the checkbook of owner Robert Kraft.
International Expansion
While the NBA and MLB have both played games in London in the last year, it was the NFL that really pioneered the international expansion. The NFL played a handful of exhibition games at Wembley in the 1980s and instantly won over the fans. Now, the NFL attempts to hold a few regular-season games in London every year, thanks to a deal made by Jacksonville Jaguars owner, Shahid Kahn, in 2013. International expansion has even reached Mexico City and it could end up being only a few years from now that we see a league expansion move internationally.

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Photo Credit: Betway NFLThe post The 10 Biggest Changes in 100 Years of the NFL appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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