The Southern States Football League, where the Sarasota Millionaires played its first three years, is going out of business. SSFL Commissioner Dave Rice posted the following statement on the reasons for the league shutdown.
“Commissioner Dave Rice announced today that after 10 years of operation, the Southern States Football League has suspended operation.
I personally wish to express my appreciation to those who made a difference in the SSFL and whose contribution to football will always be in my memory. Players, coaches, staff and the many fans and families that expressed their pride in being a part of the SSFL have been a personal particular joy for me as Commissioner.
The 10 plus years have been some of the most unexpected, exciting and proud, yet at the same time, disappointing, taxing, frustrating and disgraceful in the 40 plus years of experience in football. Working with officials, the very few owners who try to make a difference, meeting the few coaches who care beyond the score, players, fans and proud parents have been the highlights.
Never experiencing having to work with people who have lied to me, their players and coaches, cheated, bounced checks, taken money from players yet canceled games and did not give the appropriate money back, refused to play games, signed their name in agreement to follow standards and rules and ignored same, ignored violence on the field,
did not pay vendors and stadium administrations, ignored team stars, said there organization would open doors for advancement and not only never did, but had no contact or credibility with those organizations players hope to achieve, having to go to court 7 times to enforce league dues….these experiences were eye opening and frustrating as there was nothing one could do about it other than expel them from the league and they just move on to another league. The honest caring owners on one hand really don’t care who they associate with and accept being a part of leagues with these football team owner undesirables.
To those that did not measure up, I hope you will attempt to improve in those lacking areas that were not accepted in the SSFL. Count your blessings that you are able to continue in football even those you are an undesirable at any other level and would never be tolerated.
After a year of extensive research and evaluation of team owners it has been determined that there are not 12 team owners in the State of Florida that meet the competitive standards to meet the goals of the SSFL. The state is inundated with 7 known leagues which have diluted the sport in prominence and has created a recreational aura instead of a professional approach. The SSFL was not created to be thought of in the same arena as those leagues presently in operation. Our esteemed Board of Directors wants no further involvement with this level of play and unfortunately, when I first brought it to their attention…..”I told you so”. They were correct and I was incorrect. The status quo has kept Semi Pro and Minor League Football off the football grid for over 100 years. The SSFL’s attempt to alter that perspective in the State of Florida came close, but failed.
The SSFL Advisory Board made up completely of NCAA Athletic Directors, Coaches, Conference Commissioners, Academic Advisors and Admissions Director established the SSFL as a bridge for players and coaches to advance careers in college and professional ranks as well as providing opportunities for local men to play for the love of the game of football representing their respective communities. Fact finding during the year concluded that the goals set to elevate Minor League Football at the level we envisioned could not be achieved.
General Results of the research.
There is exceptional individual talent on ALL teams in ALL leagues. The issues facing Minor League football has nothing to do with players.
Minor League coaches in all leagues are dedicated football men with few exceptions and put a quality product on the field of play. They are limited only in the support services provided by team owners.
The negative issues in Minor League Football are identified with team ownership, plain and simple.
There is absolutely no apparent interest in a membership comprised of owners who wish to actually play at the highest level in the state. To do so would mean that teams would have to not only have facilities to meet all SSFL standards, but, to do the things necessary to develop fans and respect from college and professional organizations. Presently, if a game has 200 fans, it is acceptable. Lack of fans stem from a myriad of negatives including boring schedules, limiting play to a small geographic area, refusal to travel state wide, playing teams with poor records and in many instances twice, lack of half time entertainment, absolutely no planned advertising campaign, no effort in community season ticket sales and promotions, failure to recognize players and coaches in press releases, lack of a highlighted championship in a nationally known stadium, etc., etc.
To meet the expectations of the SSFL owners would be expected to adhere to many aspects of football that owners are not willing to do, including, but not limited to the following:
1. Meet ALL SSFL Facility Standards
2. Prove that the owner has a financial plan to run the business of a team and not LIVE OFF PLAYER FEES.
3. Require and provide the league with a background check of all staff including self.
4. Require coaches obtain the same licensing for those coaches in high school.
5. Be willing to play 10 separate teams in the state in regular season.
6. Teams must be competitive within the league to maintain membership.
7. Participate in an SSFL state wide season ticket sale program.
8. Participate in an SSFL league fund raising program.
9. Accept a no tolerance policy regarding forfeits and violence.
10. Teams opting for switching from a league to the SSFL would not be accepted if a history of violence and forfeits.
11. Provide weekly press releases to local media.
12. All home games to have scheduled half time entertainment.
13. Participate in a game film exchange with all opponents.
14. Provide game film copies for college and pro opportunities when requested.
15. Attend all meetings including the Championship Game; Hall of Fame and member approved events and functions.
16. Support a coaches association.
17. Play the league championship in a national stadium.
18. Provide transportation to games for players and coaches.
19. Keep individual records for Hall of Fame selection.
20. Support of a league All Star Game, League Awards Banquet, Pre Season Jamboree, and State Tournament of All League Champions.
There probably will never be a league in Florida where 12 owners will support competition at the desired SSFL level and thereby earn the respect from college and professional organizations to do what Minor League Football is supposed to do….offer future options for advancement to those that aspire as players, coaches and officials.
Entering Minor League Football with all the excitement of goals and aspirations and leaving with the feeling of total relief compares to the excitement of buying a boat and the ultimate exhilaration when selling it. ”