Chop Block: Where Semi-Pro Went Wrong, Part Four
September 12, 2016 by Terrance Biggs
In response to the previous articles, the league released the following statement.
“Whoever said, “Success breeds contempt,” should receive royalties for the consistent relevance of the quote. The Gridiron Developmental Football League is closing its 7th season after yet another memorable championship, watched by thousands via Facebook live. The on-field success of the GDFL is often debated but, the success of the member franchises speaks to the benefit of membership.
When it comes to semi-pro, minor league or developmental football, no league polarizes discussions and arguments quite like this one. From former staffers, disgruntled coaches, now non-existent teams and more, the vitriol aimed at the league is palpable. Each endeavors to blow the GDFL cover with baseless and factless claims. Charles Thompson, the Chairman of the GDFL, is committed to building a top notch league. He is also the first to admit that things are not perfect and there is much work to do. After Gridiron Bowl 7, Thompson continues to put the pieces in place for the GDFL to have abounding success.
The GDFL has lost several teams in recent years. What remains, is what Thompson believes is a core of committed and dedicated owners, who believe in the “One Direction” motto of the league. The noise from outside the GDFL family is usually indistinct and good for social media. The league welcomes the chatter. More importantly, the league welcomes the eyes, the opinions, and the hate from the fallen few, who could not survive in the humid climate of the GDFL.
Thompson chooses to focus on the teams and draws strength from them.
It’s the pride of the newly formed Lee County Tiger-Cats, the fire of the Marvel City Tigers and the guts of the Georgia Crush that fuel the GDFL. While detractors aim for Thompson, they miss the work supporting his platform done by the franchises within the league. The GDFL landscape changes yearly but, the league presses on. In fact, not every team can ride this ride. As old members, freelancers and associates fade into the abyss, the echoes of their discontent are the only remnant of what was once gridiron glory. #WEAREGDFL”
Are the opinions of everyone interviewed wrong? Representatives from different teams and former employees are totally incorrect?
Which claims are “baseless”? The statement makes no distinction and utilizes a blanket statement. Anyone currently on the GDFL Executive Team is welcome to explain the league’s side.
“Couldn’t survive the humid climate”? The Central Pennsylvania Piranha rightfully won two GDFL Championships; the Chambersburg Cardinals also captured a title. The Oklahoma City Bounty Hunters were one of the GDFL’s strongest teams. How did they not handle the league?
“Blowing someone’s cover” means that you are finding out who they really are. Is that what the GDFL meant?
In an attempt to differentiate itself from semi-pro, the GDFL uses the word “developmental: to describe itself. How is the league developing players, other than providing games? Is there a league mandated list of guideline to help this process? It appears that only a few teams actually institute a system of development. Why isn’t this rule of law throughout the GDFL?
Note: The following interviews contain views that are the sole opinion of the subjects.
Chad Fauson is a highly respected name in semipro football. Brutally honest and never one to pull punches, he owned the Chambersburg Cardinals. They captured the 2011 GDFL championship, capping off a perfect 13-0 season. Fauson voices his opinions regarding the GDFL:
Q: What were your first impressions?
Fauson: I was interested in his vision we had similar interests for this level at a national level. My initial impression was good. It was a new league so I knew there would be upset and downs.
Q: When did the perception change?
Fauson: My perception changed when he started silencing players on teams that didn’t speak well of him personally, blocking on social media, etc.
Q: Was the league informed of any unhappiness? How did they handle it?
Fauson: There was unhappiness from the lower tiered teams but that’s because organizationally they couldn’t compete with the top teams.
Q: Where does CEO Charles Thompson go wrong?
Fauson: By not communicating effectively his plans. In this business, which is full of snake oil salesmen you have to stay close to the chest. You won’t find sympathy from me for lower tiered teams. Our players didn’t come out of pocket. We ran it the way it was supposed to be run. Most these teams, if it’s my choice would not be allowed in any league. That’s where Charles messes up. He lets anyone in that pays the fee.
Q: Is there a conflict of interest with him running a team and the league?
Fauson: That is something he should not do. Yes. But, he still can’t win his own league
Q: How has the league lasted this long?
Fauson: Charles, as bad as he can seem, has a desire and drive to be the best at this level. While he may not do what others think is right or wrong, but you can’t knock the man’s hustle.
Q: How would you fix the league?
Fauson: I’d build more off integrity and quality that’s just me. It’s just the way you operate. I would focus more on the long term goal than short term, by recruiting more quality teams and have as much parity as possible to establish a good product.
Q: Can the league turn things around?
Fauson: Not with Charles. His hustle game is too intense. He will burn himself out once his league isn’t being talked about anymore.
Q: Is the term “developmental football” just a term?
Fauson: Yes. He’s in it for the money.
Q: What is your business model?
Fauson: And I employ a lot of my players that have been with me for over a decade. I treat people with respect and that translates into loyalty. It’s a simple formula.
Mike Brooks gives insight from a player’s perspective. He played a partial season in Memphis. His opinions are strong and there is no grey area with him.
Q: How did you get involved with the GDFL?
Brooks: Played in NAFL, MLFA, and GMFL since 2002. Moved to Memphis in 2013 and wanted to keep playing. The Blast was pretty much the only option in town. I kind of knew the history with Charles, but playing was most important.
Q: At what point did you see something wrong in Memphis?
Brooks: I just wanted to play games, so I figured I’d let the rest slide. I had heard teams complaining about GDFL business practices prior to joining. We were playing at fields that would run 2,000/game, yet most guys weren’t paying their fees.
Q: Why did you leave?
Brooks: I left after 6 games due to seeing how he was treating Wally Ball (former director of media). Wally and I became friends during his time here. I helped him out a few times. He did some mechanic work for me. We were both transplants to Memphis. Charles was letting anyone he thought could help win join mid season without paying or any other commitment, while I saw guys who did their part/take care of obligations take a back seat.
Q: Did anyone ever call Charles out?
Brooks: In prior years, probably. When Memphis a couple other real options to play for, but now he’s helped push the rest out. He’s really the only team in town.
Q: What is the league’s flaw?
Brooks: I completely understand the guy puts in time to run the league, so a salary is warranted. But I don’t believe teams get enough in return. He operates on emotion, too. Can’t run a reputable league like that.
Q: Is there actual development?
Brooks: You may have one guy out of thousands actually be a Cinderella story. Most guys get lured into tryout fees for indoor teams that never existed, or team’s where the pay is far less than what you would take working a regular 9-5. More of money grab, using guys chasing a dream.
To reiterate, the GDFL is welcome to a sit-down interview to address the topics presented.