DFI 2017 Proof of Concept
(INDIO) - After a proof-of-concept 2017 season, DFI team owners are looking ahead to the 2018 campaign, when vetted new franchises join an enterprise that seeks to become the most prominent American football developmental league in the world.
Keyword - competition, as in providing a legitimate developmental football platform for the 16,000 displaced graduating college players annually who are left with few options. Only 250 new jobs exist between the NFL and CFL combined. The SoCal Coyotes, a perennial championship contender for 10 seasons, agreed to play in a three-team round-robin in 2017 "for the primary purpose of helping the Los Angeles brands build their base and develop their operating processes," says head coach J David Miller, who chairs the DFI competition committee that includes other team owners. Playing three games apiece against the football-factory Coyotes, and each other, was a grueling process of natural selection that forced improvement to new teams. "Growing a competitive league is a painful process," Miller says. "We now have the right executives at the foundation, which attracted more professional owners. The baselines and expectations are set." DFI plays by NFL rules. Players are rewarded with high-definition Hudl film. Teams share identical contracts, code of conduct, social media and even national anthem policies. Teams play on quality fields (Shadow Hills, Whittier College, John Elway Stadium) and wear NFL uniforms. Next step, NFL coaching. Thanks to technology, the league in 2018 will offer virtual, face-time experts - NFL coaches and retired players who will break down game film, assess players, and outline improvement. On and off the field, the league has embraced 'Above the Line' curriculum to develop players as men. "Most importantly, it's what the players do with their lives - character, competence and connection - that matter most," says Kelly Hurst, owner and managing general partner of the California Sharks. "It's not just football," Ms. Hurst says. "We're giving them a flight plan for the rest of their lives."