River Kings report recently sat down with General Manager Reggie Harris, to discuss some of the fans’ most pressing questions.
How would you describe the state of the IFL right now? Are there definite plans to play in 2021?
The league is approaching 2021 full steam ahead. The league year starts soon [September 1], but the first games on the schedule are more than six months away. Obviously the situation with COVID-19, and the various state and federal responses to it, are still in flux, but as far as the league’s concerned we’re approaching the next few months like it’s a regular offseason — business as usual.
Speaking of the offseason, we’ve seen some teams, for instance our in-state rivals the Barnstormers, already making moves in the free agent market. Can you discuss the free agency process? How are the River Kings approaching it?
As far as signing free agents, IFL teams can’t sign players from another team’s roster until the official start of the free agency period on October 1. Teams can re-sign players who [would have] finished the season on their rosters, and some teams, like the Barnstormers, have been more aggressive in doing that. The River Kings are taking a more laid-back approach, for a few reasons. First, because of COVID-19, the front office is furloughed. We can’t transact football business right now. That’s common across the league, though obviously some teams still have a person or two working in the front office.
Second, because the season got cancelled after one game, by the time we get back to [training] camp we’ll have effectively had an 11-month offseason. We’ve got talented players who are dedicated, but because of the various state restrictions on social distancing and so on, it’s bound to be difficult for some individuals to keep up their skills and conditioning. We’d prefer to have a look at everyone a little bit closer to the start of the official league year, to see where everyone is with conditioning and so forth before we start making long-term commitments.
Finally — and this goes back towards the furlough issue — IFL teams have to sign their league affiliation letter, which is their “letter of intent” to play in the upcoming season, before they can start transacting football business.
Have the River Kings signed the letter? Is there a question about the River Kings returning to the IFL in 2021?
Unfortunately. As many fans know, Mr. Choi [principal owner Roy Choi] is involved in the casino entertainment industry on the West Coast. Right now California in general, and that sector of the economy in particular, has been hit hard by the COVID restrictions. We both believe that the [I-80] Corridor is a great environment for football, a great market for an IFL team, but the fact is, there’s lots of uncertainty about the business climate out there right now.
Letters of affiliation have to be signed and submitted to the league office by September first. As soon as we’ve got a definite answer I’ll get it out to the fans.
What would you say is the best-case scenario for the River Kings, and the league, in 2021? How about the worst?
The best case is going 16-0 and winning the United Bowl! [laughs]. That aside, the IFL is a strong league with lots of presence in some good markets. Right now there are expansion plans in the works. You’ve seen that Columbus [OH] will be coming into the league for the 2022 season, and there are some other expansion plans, and rumors of expansion plans, that I can’t comment on right now. But the cutoff for expansion is August first, so we’re going to see that shake out very quickly. Ideally, the teams that might not be in such strong positions right now get shored up, some new teams come in, and the league keeps getting stronger. Worst case, some of those teams don’t quite make it, maybe there are some issues with teams not being able to play in their arenas [due to changing COVID restrictions], maybe the league goes into 2021 with twelve teams or so. But the league is going strong, and we’re very hopeful to have indoor football in the Corridor next season.