Welp, Steve Spurrier’s AAF team now has to practice in the home state of one of his biggest rivals. The Orlando Apollos, who play their home games at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium, will now have to practice in Georgia thanks to Florida’s workers’ compensation laws.
The issue lies with the fact that Florida doesn’t categorize professional athletes as employees and won’t secure insurance coverage for them. — and that the AAF hasn’t been able to secure private coverage on its own. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
AAF officials say the reason this is even an issue is because Florida, unlike many other states, will not cover professional athletes under its workers compensation laws. In Florida, professional athletes are not categorized as employees, which means state law prevents pro athletes from filing workers comp claims for injuries incurred while on the job.
According to AAF officials, other more established professional leagues who have teams in the state — such as the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball — have all managed to find insurance companies that will insure their entire leagues. The AAF, because it is start-up league in the perilously dangerous sport of football, has been unable to locate a company that will insure all eight teams in the league.
So the Apollos are off to Georgia, where they’ll have workers’ comp coverage. AAF players in Florida not being able to file workers’ comp is odd in itself, but it gets even weirder.
1. The players aren’t even going to live in Georgia, despite the team relocating much of its operations there.
Per the Sentinel, the Apollos will stay in a hotel Jacksonville and take buses 30 minutes north to Kingsland, Georgia, where they’ll have their practices. Yeesh.
It’s not unheard of for a team’s practice facility to be far away from where its home games are played. In the NFL, Washington plays home games in Maryland, near D.C., and practices an hour away in Virginia. But long team bus rides to practice every day is a new one.
2. They’ll still play their home games in Orlando, a solid 90-minute drive from Jacksonville.
Since the Apollos won’t have to practice exclusively in Georgia all season (more on that in a minute), the team will bus back to Orlando for the one home game on March 16 against the Arizona Hotshots. Speaking as a 407 native, that drive isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly harder than already being in Orlando in the first place.
3. Spurrier having to practice in the home state of one of his most hated rivals, the Georgia Bulldogs, is extremely ironic.
In 2017, the Head Ball Coach spoke with Steven Godfrey about 2007, but it really turned into him ragging on Georgia:
I don’t ever hear much from Georgia fans now. Most football fans, if coaches have success where they’re at, generally if you’re not coaching against their team, they’re OK with you. It’s sort of interesting, looking back.
And when he was at South Carolina, he had this glorious one-liner about playing the Dawgs early in the season:
“I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended,” Spurrier told ESPN’s Chris Low back in 2012.
4. Naturally, Spurrier tried “calling some big shots in Tallahassee” to avoid having to practice in Georgia, he said.
I, for one, am shocked this didn’t work. Apparently the HBC couldn’t get through to the state’s insurance commissioner, per the Sentinel.
5. Luckily for Spurrier, the Apollos only have to have 51 percent of their practices in Georgia for that state to cover players under its workers’ comp laws.
So the team will spend 36 days out of its 77-day season practicing in Georgia, the Sentinel says, with that one bus trip to Orlando for a home game mixed in. Not exactly ideal, but certainly better than having to bus to Kingsland the whole rest of the season!
6. One of the AAF’s best and most popular teams getting a high school treatment is pretty humorous, too.
No new football league is going to come without hiccups, but the Apollos are undefeated with clearly the most popular coach in the league. They have the most former blue-chip recruits of any of the league’s eight teams, and now they’re wandering.