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Did Canes owner Tom Dundon shut down the Alliance of American Football?

Canes owner Tom Dundon talks football

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has become the chairman of the new Alliance of American Football. What does his AAF investment mean for the Canes? Watch him and Charlie Ebersol, one of the AAF founders, talk with reporters.
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Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has become the chairman of the new Alliance of American Football. What does his AAF investment mean for the Canes? Watch him and Charlie Ebersol, one of the AAF founders, talk with reporters.

Tom Dundon and Charlie Ebersol were all smiles on Feb. 19 at a joint press conference at PNC Arena.

That day, it was announced Dundon would become chairman of the Alliance of American Football, a fledgling developmental league that had already had begun its inaugural season. Dundon, majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, had agreed to fund the football league with $250 million, joining the two league co-founders, Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian.

Dundon mentioned the quality of the football and surprisingly solid early TV ratings, saying the league would “give players, coaches, referees the opportunity to make their way to the NFL.” There was talk of adding an AAF team in Raleigh and playing at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.

But on Tuesday, six weeks later, the AAF notified its employees it was suspending operations, according to emails provided to multiple media outlets. It was reported that Dundon, unable to work out an agreement with the NFL Players Association, made the decision. The league said it will keep a skeleton staff and look for other investors.

Polian released a statement Tuesday saying he was “extremely disappointed” by Dundon’s decision and had hoped to “make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.”

Dundon had hoped to use an influx of players from NFL practice squads, allowing them to further develop in the AAF, as well as a system to send players from the AAF to the NFL. Unable to get NFLPA approval, he threatened to shut down the eight-team league.

Dundon could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

While it was reported Dundon, a Dallas billionaire, had invested as much as $70 million in the football venture, the financial situation with the AAF is not expected to have any effect on Dundon’s running of the Hurricanes.

Ebersol, a TV and film producer, had nothing but praise for Dundon -- as would be expected after committing to $250 million in funding -- at the Feb. 19 media briefing at PNC Arena.

“If you were going to design the perfect person to invest in a startup football league, he’d be in his mid-40s, he’d be a self-made American businessman who had ground through the challenges of startup life and somebody who was passionate about football,” Ebersol said.

Ebersol said Dundon was that person, later referring to what he called the “glow of Tom Dundon.”

“When Tom puts his focus into something and building something, he’s not building to build but building to win,” Ebersol said.

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.


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