I recently spoke with Drew Carnes the Owner of the Wichita Falls Nighthawks. With so many rumors swirling around the IFL, and the presumption his team will be joining the CIF next year, he seemed like the perfect person to speak with.
Hi Mr. Carnes, thanks for agreeing to speak with me. The rumor is you’re out of the IFL and joining the CIF?
DC: We haven’t made any official decisions on that, but The Nighthawks are looking at what makes most sense for us in totality. Specifically we’re looking at what makes sense for us financially. We’ve had three great years and IFL. They are great playing partners and we feel very fortunate to have played and beaten the Iowa Barnstormers the Arizona Rattlers the Spokane Empire, and the Sioux Falls Storm. We were able to do a lot of things in the IFL that are pretty historical and monumental. We loved being in the IFL but the problem is we traveled 580 miles to get to our nearest competitor. Unless there is something flukey we won’t travel that far to get to our furthest competitor in the CIF until we get to the championship game. For financial reasons the CIF is a very good option for us. It has very similar gameplay to the IFL and we think it could provide a lot of value for us.
Having three or four other teams in Texas should make road trips a lot easier.
DC: Absolutely. I can pick up the kids after school on game day and still make make it to an away game before the gates even open. We’ve never had that option before. IFL travel for us has always been an overnight venture.
That sounds like it could be difficult for the team.
DC: I think we’ve traveled well. The team is getting the accommodations they need. it’s not luxury travel, but it is sleeper buses. We flew twice last year, but a flight, all inclusive by the time you get done paying baggage it’s around $12-15,000 and a bus trip is around $8-10k. You can get a sit up bus for a whole lot less than that, but unfortunately for every trip we took, we needed sleeper buses. My travel budget for last year was $65,000. I’ve looked at what I think my most likely scenario is, based on teams around us in the CIF, and I think my travel cost will be less than $20,000 which it right there is a $45,000 savings over being in the AFL.
In the IFL you would have to travel to Spokane of Green Bay, but now the furthest regular season game is Albuquerque.
DC: Green Bay is more than 1,100 miles away from Wichita Falls. Whereas Albuquerque is 499 miles. Green Bay doesn’t look that far on the map, it’s only about 2 inches away, but 2 ¼ inches away is Canada. I’ve seen a lot more of the United States than I’ve ever dreamed I would in a pretty short time.
It appears as if the IFL, as well as the AFL are having difficulties that might dramatically affect 2018. Will the IFL be able to hold enough teams together to be a viable league next year?
DC: The IFL has a great product, but indoor football is finicky. Every year is different. One year this league looks like it’ll be the strongest and this one doesn’t, and next year it changes. I think the thing that really has the IFL Behind the eight-ball right now is our apparent departure. A lot of people think the writing’s on the wall on that. It would drop them by one team. Then if you drop Colorado and Salt Lake City out, maybe they’re okay with the IFL playing with 7 teams? Then Cedar Rapids took a huge step backwards from 2017 to 2018, so what’s going on there? Has it been fixed? Then Spokane announced their ceasing operations and suddenly the league went from 10 good-looking stable teams to six, maybe five. Is there another domino’s going to fall? What’s going on? I can see the trepidation there.
Do you think the IFL will expand for next season?
DC: I don’t know of any pending additions to the league, but I do know there were no pending additions that will help my travel whatsoever. With me being on an island, that had to be the priority. It doesn’t matter to me how many times I have to travel across the country, what matters is I don’t want to travel across the country.
So you are in discussions with the CIF now?
DC: I’m not going to comment on that but I think the internet rumors that are out there are pretty solid. I would expect to make an announcement sooner rather than later as far as what our official home will be for the 2018 season and beyond.
Do you think other IFL teams will be following your lead?
DC: The picture changes daily and by the time we hang up I’ll probably get a couple of phone calls and things will look very different than what I just told you. There really is a lot of movement going on right now and all I can say is the teams that look like they’re making a move have surprised me and caught me off guard. I expect this to be a very fun off-season in the category of who’s going where and what’s happening to the different teams.