When the Indoor Football League playoffs kick off this weekend, one qualifying team will be watching.
According to league tiebreaking procedures, the Beef earned the conference’s fourth and final playoff spot. However, in a controversial and unexplained decision, the league has awarded that spot to the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks.
I was made aware of this possibility last week in an email from interim IFL commissioner, Robert Loving.
“There are some extenuating circumstances that may impact whether Omaha will be able to participate in the playoffs even if they qualify with their record,” he wrote.
As the week went on, I was able to learn a little bit more about those “extenuating circumstances.”
Everything started in the fall of 2011, when the Beef’s former owner, Jeff Sprowls, got caught up in a federal drug investigation. Sprowls, who has not been charged with any crime, attempted to fold the team a short time later, only to have the league step in and take control of the franchise.
The IFL has run the team all season, with a group of the league’s owners overseeing operations. That group put the team on a budget that would be difficult for even the soundest of IFL franchises to manage.
That, ultimately, is what cost the Omaha Beef its playoff spot. With the team over budget, the “ownership group” decided it was in the best interest of the league to end Omaha’s season.
While I understand that Sprowls forced the league into a difficult situation, it is ridiculous to penalize the players and coaches for something that is completely out of their control. They should be recognized for their efforts on the field, especially given the circumstances.
They’ve earned the right to compete for a championship.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure it matters all that much. Sioux Falls looks untouchable, especially at home, meaning Omaha’s playoff stay would have likely been a short one anyway.
Congratulations, Lehigh Valley.
Programming Note: The Sioux Falls Storm (14-0) host the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks in the opening round of the IFL Playoffs on Saturday, June 23. You can see that game live on Midco Sports Network and www.midcosportsnet.com. Coverage kicks off at 7pm.